The grasslands in and around Shuklaphanta Wildlife Reserve (SWR) are under immense pressure from livestock grazing. Overgrazing has been identified as the major cause of decline in grassland habitat and animals in this area. Close to 10,000 cattle graze freely in the core and peripheral areas of the reserve every day. This poses a threat not only to grassland habitat, but also to wild animals. Domestic animals and wild animals both share grazing land and this also increases the likelihood of disease transmission between livestock and wild animals. For instance, in 2010-2011, foot and mouth disease claimed the lives of 20 swamp and hog deer.
Local communities depend on livestock for daily livelihood. Cattle and other livestock provide economic and nutritional needs to households in the SWR area. With over 22,000 households in the surrounding area rearing livestock, there is a significant amount of domestic animals needing to be taken care of on a daily basis. Unfortunately, veterinary facilities are inadequate and households suffer a major economic blow when they lose their animals. Additionally, women, largely responsible for collecting fodder, sometimes suffer spinal injuries as a result of falling from trees.
The main objective of this DI-funded project is to “provide support for protection of the fragile grassland ecosystem and wildlife of SWR while supporting the livelihoods of buffer zone communities to improve their wellbeing”. Major activities carried out include support to farmers for raising improved cattle breeds that lead to increased milk yields, and better access to veterinary services. Further, farmers have also been encouraged to adopt improved grazing practices to reduce the pressure on grasslands and the potential of disease transmission between wild ruminants and domestic animals. Awareness programs through radio stations are also being broadcast to local communities. In these ways, through this project, Himalayan Nature with the support of the Zoological Society of London (ZSL) is helping to conserve grasslands in and around SWR while improving livelihoods of communities in the surrounding landscape.