© naturepl.com / Edwin Giesbers / WWF
Wildlife
Nepal harbors a host of wildlife across it's landscapes, with its forests sheltering 30,167 living species; including 13,067 plants and 17,097 animals. These landscapes are home to the magnificent tiger, the mysterious snow leopard and many more vulnerable and endangered species.


However human activities threaten wildlife in two main ways: by destroying and damaging the places where wildlife lives, and by using them in ways that are unsustainable. WWF Nepal has been working with the Government of Nepal for over five decades to secure Nepal's wildlife populations; while also ensuring peaceful co-existence with those living alongside animals. 

Approximately 23.23% of Nepal's land base is protected, to preserve ecosystems and the valued wildlife they harbor. Some of Nepal's biggest achievements include bringing back populations of the historic one-horned rhinos from the brink of extinction, alongside celebrating zero poaching of rhinos on seven occasions, and  doubling its wild tiger numbers within a ten year span. 

WHY WILDLIFE

Nepal’s wildlife is threatened by a multitude of factors, the most direct threats being loss and degradation of habitat, over-exploitation, poaching, illegal wildlife trade, and negative human-wildlife interactions. These threats are triggered by development of large infrastructure, climate change, poverty, and other factors. Meanwhile, climatic factors that trigger the vulnerabilities include forest fires, droughts, and extreme flooding.

© Samir Jung Thapa/WWF Nepal-Hariyo Ban Program
WHAT WE'RE DOING
Despite globally recognized conservation wins, Nepal's wildlife faces a multitude of challenges arising from habitat loss, wildlife trade and negative human-wildlife interactions.

At WWF Nepal, we seek to increase and manage populations of priority species and their habitats, restore lost wildlife populations in their former ranges, and reduce negative human-wildlife interactions.

SPECIES MANAGEMENT

WWF Nepal has identified six threatened species as focal species which include the tiger, greater one-horned rhinoceros, elephant, pangolin, red panda, and snow leopard. WWF Nepal supports the Government of Nepal in the conservation and management of these focal species within Nepal's Protected Areas, and outside protected areas in WWF's priority landscapes. 

Priority initiatives include monitoring of focal species to ascertain their status and performance in their habitats based on robust monitoring protocols, alongside reintroduction of species in their former ranges, ecological monitoring of species, wildlife rescue and rehabilitation, wildlife disease management, and identification and adaptation of technologies that support the management of species.   

CURBING WILDLIFE CRIMES

WWF Nepal works with government agencies, local communities as well as non-conventional partners to coordinate with global, regional, and bilateral fora and mechanisms to curb poaching and control illegal wildlife trade of focal species. 

With the new federal structure in place, WWF Nepal has also been collaborating with local and provincial government to enhance local capacities. WWF Nepal also supports the exploration and application of tested technologies in wildlife crime monitoring, provides technical assistance in formulating and revising applicable policies and laws at all three tiers of the government, and in enhancing transboundary collaboration with India to minimize wildlife trade across its borders. WWF Nepal has also supported the development and mobilization of the country's largest network of community based anti-poaching units spread across its priority working sites.   

HABITAT MANAGEMENT

Destruction and degradation of natural ecosystems is the most dreaded threats impacting the survival of focal species and flow of ecosystem services. WWF Nepal has been supporting management of critical forested areas, grasslands, wetlands and rangelands within national parks, corridor areas and outside protected areas identified as critical habitats.

WWF Nepal provides both technical and financial assistance to government entities including communities to improve productivity of critical habitats while promoting nature based and nature positive solutions that deliver equitable benefits to local communities. 
 

NEGATIVE HUMAN-WILDLIFE INTERACTIONS

WWF Nepal undertakes an integrated approach to reduce negative interactions between humans and wildlife, supporting the government’s adaptive human-wildlife management policies as well as working with community-based institutions such as Buffer Zone User Committee and Community Forest User Groups (CFUGs) to carry out prevention and curative measures along hotspot areas in the WWF Nepal's Priority Landscapes. Initiatives include promotion of alternative sources of fodder, improved livestock management, improved corrals, bio-fences, and alternative/deterrent crop farming, livestock insurance mechanisms to either deter or offset negative interactions, while also prioritizing mobilization of Rapid Response Team in the landscape.  

© Muhammad Osama / WWF-Pakistan
CHALLENGES

Habitat loss and destruction and degradation of natural ecosystems is major threats impacting survival of focal species and flow of ecosystem services. Loss and degradation of natural habitats, such as forests, grasslands, and wetlands due to the expansion of settlements, agriculture, and infrastructure; overexploitation; invasion by alien species; and pollution of water bodies-including plastics- remain the predominant threats. In addition- critical habitats become more vulnerable to the spread of invasive woody perennial plant species that are not palatable to the native wildlife, and accelerated natural succession leads to the loss of critical habitat such as grassland for the wildlife. Climate change is exacerbating these challenges with more frequent droughts and wildfires. Construction of large linear infrastructure development such as road, irrigation canals passing through critical natural habitat in protected areas, corridors, and critical watersheds may leads to loss of biodiversity values it contains.
 

The rise in demand for wildlife commodities in consumer countries has led to a surge in poaching and illegal wildlife trade. Nepal’s geographical location and its open border with India has been repeatedly used as route and transit for smuggling plant and wildlife parts. In the last ten years (2010-2020), 50 tiger skins and 410 kilograms of pangolin scales were seized, and 2583 suspects arrested. The ongoing COVID 19 pandemic, which has left people unemployed and seen the return of migrant labors from overseas to rural areas, has only added to existing threats by putting immense pressure on forest including wildlife habitats. There has been a sudden increase in illegal activities in and around protected areas (PAs) as people have been illegally enter forested areas for resource extraction and opportunistic poaching. Despite a record seven times 365 days of zero poaching of rhinoceros in Nepal, in 2020, four cases of rhino poaching were detected. Wildlife crime still prevails in Nepal despite various efforts to control it.
 

Despite success in the species recovery, Human wildlife conflict (HWC) or negative interaction between people and wildlife has recently become one of the fundamental aspects of wildlife management as it represents the most widespread and complex challenge currently faced in Nepal. People are attacked by large mammal species such as tigers, common leopards, rhinoceros, elephants, and bears causing human fatalities and injuries. HWC, resulting in antagonism against species by the communities, is one of the gravest challenges to snow leopards in high mountains of Nepal. Mass killing of livestock by snow leopard is one of major element contributing towards the antagonism against species. Surge in HWC events is attributed with a growth in wildlife and human population, limited resources in handling HWC, low awareness among community living in HWC prone area, and inadequate execution of policies and procedures to HWC mitigation options.
 

FOCAL SPECIES

Tiger

Common name: Bengal Tiger

Scientific Name: Panthera tigris tigris

Length: 250-390 cm (Male), 200-275 cm (Female)

Weight: 90-306 kg

Population: 235

Status: Categorized Endangered in IUCN Red List throughout its range countries and listed in Appendix I of Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora (CITES) agreement. Tiger is a protected species according to the National Parks and Wildlife Conservation Act, 1973 A.D. (2029 B.S.)

Habitat: Tiger habitat ranges from wet, evergreen, semi evergreen, swampy mangroves of the Ganges delta, to deciduous forests, thorny forests and open grasslands. Geographically, they are found at sea level from the Sundar Bans in Bangladesh, to the base of the Himalayas, and up to 4000m asl in Bhutan. 

Distribution: In Nepal, the Bengal Tiger is found across five protected areas - Chitwan National Park, Parsa National Park, Banke National Park, Bardia National Park and Shuklaphanta National Park. Tiger dispersal is also frequently recorded in the corridors of the transboundaryTerai Arc Landscape. Besides Nepal, the Bengal Tiger is distributed in India, Bangladesh and Bhutan. 

Challenges: The tiger is an umbrella species of the ecosystem. It's survival represents a healthy ecosystem with plenty of prey base and sufficient forest cover. However habitat destruction, habitat fragmentation, decrease in prey-base, poaching for fur and body parts, retaliatory killing, illegal hunting and diseases continue to reamin major threats to the animal.

Greater One-Horned Rhinoceros

Common name: Greater One Horned Rhinoceros
Scientific Name: Rhinoceros unicornis
Length: 3.1-3.8 m
Weight: 2450 kg
Population: 7521

Status: Categorized as Vulnerable inIUCN Red list and listed in the Appendix-I in the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora (CITES). It is a protected species according to the National Parks and Wildlife Conservation Act, 1973 A.D (2029 B.S.)

Habitat: Rhinos inhabit the riparian grasslands of Terai and Brahmaputra Basins. They prefer alluvial floodplain grasslands, riverine forest and nearby wetlands. Currently, populations are restricted to habitats surrounded by human-dominated landscapes due to which they can be seen in adjacent cultivated areas, pastures and secondary forests.

Distribution: In Nepal, the greater one horned rhinoceros is primarily found in Chitwan National Park, Bardia National Park, Shuklaphanta National Park, with a few also located in Parsa National Park. Besides Nepal, they are also found in India, and are regionally extinct from Bangladesh and Bhutan.

Challenges: Poaching is a major threat for the species, primarily for its horns, known to be used in traditional Chinese medicines. Retaliatory killings due to crop damage and human attack are also occasionally reported. Agricultural expansion and encroachment upon their habitats outside protected areas are another major issue. Meanwhile, invasive alien plant species such as Mikenia micrantha also has serious impacts on their native food plant species.

 

Red Panda

Common name: Red Panda
Scientific Name: Ailurus fulgens
Length: 93-110 cm
Weight: 3-7-6.2 kg
Population: 237-1061

Status: Categorized as Endangered species in IUCN Red List, and listed in Appendix I in the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora (CITES). The National Parks and Wildlife Conservation Act 1973 A.D. (2029 B.S.) has also enlisted Red Panda as a protected species.

Habitat: The Red Panda inhabits high altitude temperate forests with an abundance of bamboo in the understories. They are distributed within a narrow altitude range; between 2000-4500m asl, with small isolated populations also found in warm climates; below 1500m asl, in Meghalaya of India. A large portion of the Red Panda habitat lies outside the mountainous protected areas networks throughout its range.

Distribution: The Red Panda is distributed within the five Asian countries of Nepal, India, Bhutan, Myanmar and China. A majority of its habitat in Nepal falls outside protected areas, extending from Taplejung in the east to Kalikot in the west. Its presence has been recorded in nine different protected areas of Nepal - Rara National Park, Dhorpatan Hunting Reserve, Annapurna Conservation Area, Manaslu Conservation Area, Langtang National Park, Gaurishankar Conservation Area, Sagarmatha National Park, Makalu Barun National Park and Kangchenjunga Conservation Area. Outside protected areas, it has also been recorded in Ilam, Panchathar, Sindhupalchok, Ramechhap, Rolpa, Kalikot, Jajarkot and Jumla districts.

Challenges: Major threats to Red Panda conservation are loss, degradation, and fragmentation of its habitat, poaching especially for the trade of its hide, high dependency of local community on forest resources for grazing, fuel wood, timber and non-timber forest products. Development activities such as construction of roads, hydropower dams in high altitudes, natural disasters such as landslides, floods, heavy snowfall and rainfall, climate change, bamboo flowering, forest fires, poor regeneration of shelter plants in cold climate and high infant mortality constitute major challenges in its conservation.

 

Snow Leopard

Common name: Snow Leopard

Scientific Name: Panthera uncia

Length: 163-196 cm (male), 165-173 cm (female)

Weight: 22-55 kg

Population: 300-400

Status: Categorized as Vulnerable on the IUCN Red List and listed in Appendix I in the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora (CITES) agreement. It is a protected species according to the National Parks and Wildlife Conservation Act, 1973 A.D. (2029 B.S.)

Habitat: The habitat of the snow Leopard includes cold arid and semi-arid shrublands, alpine and sub-alpine areas, grasslands and open forests, steep terrain well broken by cliffs, ridges, gullies and rocky outcrops at elevations of 3000-5500m asl. Besides Nepal, it is distributed from Afghanistan to Kazakhstan and Russia in the north, and to India and China in the east. China contains about 60% of the total global snow leopard habitat.

Distribution: Globally, the snow leopard is distributed among 12 countries of central Asia including Altai, Himalayas, Hindu Kush, Pamirs and Tien Shan across Nepal, India, China, Pakistan, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Mongolia, Russia, Tajikistan, Afghanistan, Bhutan and Uzbekistan. Within Nepal, snow leopards are recorded in Sagarmatha National Park, Shey Phoksundo National Park, Langtang National Park, Makalu Barun National Park, Manaslu Conservation Area, Annapurna Conservation Area, Api Nampa Conservation Area, Gauri Shankar Conservation Area and Kangchenjunga Conservation Area. The stronghold of snow leopard populations in Nepal include the districts of Dolpa, Humla, Mugu, Mustang and Manang.

Challenges: Human activity poses serious threats to the survival of the snow leopard. Poaching for hide and body parts for Chinese medicines, human-snow leopard conflict in the form of retaliatory killings for livestock depredation, decrease in natural prey base due to competition with domestic cattle and hunting by humans, habitat destruction due to human settlements, mining, urbanization, deforestation, livestock grazing, shrinking habitat due to human population growth, destruction of fragile mountain ecosystems by climate change and weak transboundary cooperation are major threats for the species.

Asian Elephant

Common name: Asian Elephant
Scientific Name: Elephas maximus
Length: 5.5-6.5 m
Weight: 2000-5500 kg
Population: 109-142

Status: Categorized as Endangered species in the IUCN Red list and listed in Appendix I in the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora (CITES) agreement. The Asian elephant is legally protected by the Government of Nepal according to the  “National Parks and Wildlife Conservation Act, 1973 A.D. (2029 B.S.)

Habitat: Elephants prefer tropical and subtropical, moist and dry broadleaf forests. They seasonally move from one habitat to another. During dry seasons, They stay closer to rivers and water-holes, compensating for seasonal changes in resources by changing their feeding habits.

Distribution: It is estimated that Asian Elephant is distributed within 19 districts of Nepal and found in all the protected areas of the Terai region. Elephant population in Nepal are known to cross the Nepal-India border from Bahundangi, Jhapa in the east, Thori, Parsa in central Terai, Hattkhalla, Kanchanpur and Khata and Basanta corridor in the west. Besides Nepal, they are naturally distributed in Bangladesh, Bhutan, Cambodia, China, India, Indonesia, Lao PDR, Malaysia, Myanmar, Sri Lanka, Thailand and Vietnam.

Challenges: Elephants often get killed in retaliation for raiding crops during their annual migration through ancient migratory routes known as “elephant corridors”. They are also poached for their tusks. Elephant populations are on a decline due to expansion of human settlements across its ancient migratory routes, conflict with humans, retaliatory killings and  poaching. 
 

Pangolin

Common name: Chinese Pangolin
Scientific Name: Manis pentadactyla
Length: 65-96 cm
Weight: 2-7 kg
Population: 5000

Status: Categorized as Critically Endangered in the IUCN Red List, and listed in Appendix I in the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora (CITES) agreement. The species is protected under National Parks and Wildlife Conservation Act, 1973 A.D.  (2029 B.S.).

Habitat: The Chinese Pangolin inhabits a wide range of habitats, including primary and secondary sub-tropical forests throughout Nepal; from Terai to the mid-hill regions. They prefers open lands, different types of forests, and agricultural lands near human settlements where food, water sources and sunlight is available.

Distribution: The Chinese Pangolin is found both within and outside the protected areas of Nepal. They have been recorded in Shuklaphanta National Park, Bardia National Park, Chitwan National Park, Shivapuri-Nagarjuna National Park, Annapurna Conservation Area, Makalu-Barun National Park, Gaurisankhar Conservation Area, Sagarmatha National Park and Parsa National Park. They are also found in many national, community and private forests, outside protected areas, in Kavrepalanchok, Bhaktapur, Kathmandu, Gorkha, Illam, Taplejung, Dhankuta, Sankhuwasabha, Khotang, Makwanpur, Ramechhap, Panchathar, Terhathum and Baglung districts.

Challenges: Livestock grazing, deforestation, human encroachment for housing and cultivation, road/tower/resort construction, rock/soil mining and forest fire are destroying the habitats of the pangolin. It is the most trafficked animal of the world for its meat and other body parts. Superstitious beliefs of communities, negative attitudes, illiteracy and economic problems, lack of research and awareness programs are major threats to the conservation of the Chinese Pangolin. 

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