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.
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.
Common name: Bengal Tiger
Scientific Name: Panthera tigris tigris
Length: 250-390 cm (Male), 200-275 cm (Female)
Weight: 90-306 kg
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
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.
Common name: Red Panda
Scientific Name: Ailurus fulgens
Length: 93-110 cm
Weight: 3-7-6.2 kg
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.
Common name: Snow Leopard
Scientific Name: Panthera uncia
Length: 163-196 cm (male), 165-173 cm (female)
Weight: 22-55 kg
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.
Common name: Asian Elephant
Scientific Name: Elephas maximus
Length: 5.5-6.5 m
Weight: 2000-5500 kg
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.
Common name: Chinese Pangolin
Scientific Name: Manis pentadactyla
Length: 65-96 cm
Weight: 2-7 kg
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.
Nepal’s rhino population has shown a promising 16% increment following the results of the National Rhino Count 2021, bringing current population numbers to 752 individuals compared to 645 in 2015 in Nepal’s Terai Arc Landscape. The overall growth in population size is indicative of ongoing protection and habitat management efforts by protected area authorities despite challenging contexts these past years, and yet another milestone in Nepal’s conservation journey showcasing the impact of concerted efforts of all stakeholders.
On 22 May 2017, Nepal added a new conservation milestone with the burning of 4,000+ wildlife parts for the first time in 20 years. For Nepal, it is a statement, of bold ambition and promise, to not tolerate any act of wildlife crime. For the world, it is an appeal, for unity of purpose in curbing this biggest threat to the world’s iconic species. READ MORE
In 2018, Nepal made headlines with its new tiger population update of 235 tigers, making it the first country to almost double its tiger numbers by 2022, the next Year of the Tiger. A testament to the effectiveness of Nepal’s collaborative approach to tiger conservation. After a century of decline in tiger numbers, Nepal is helping bend the curve by serving as a model for the world’s tiger range countries on the road to 2022. READ MORE
Nepal made headway in the fight against poaching and illegal wildlife trade with the achievement of 365 days of zero poaching of rhinos for the first time in 2011. Since then, Nepal has been successful in celebrating zero poaching of rhinos on seven occasions, until 2020. At the heart of this conservation milestone is the country’s successful implementation of the Zero Poaching Toolkit spearheaded by WWF to help national and state agencies, protected area managers, rangers and other frontline protection staff close gaps in anti-poaching efforts. READ MORE