Maintaining ecosystems in their natural state is a priority for nearly all stakeholders. However, in many cases restoration of degraded environments is essential and also individual species restoration though captive breeding and release programs may also be necessary. Activities under this program are intended to support the wild populations and environments.
Trees for Tomorrow
“Trees for Tomorrow” is a new initiative to save threatened species of plants, birds and other wildlife. Through this initiative, we aim to restore our old rural landscapes with scattered individual trees around the field boundaries. The program will lead towards the establishment of several special heritage sites.
The Silk Cotton tree is the preferred species for roosting and nesting by critically threatened vultures and several other species of global concern such as the Indian Spotted Eagle, the Lesser Adjutant and the Grey-headed Fish Eagle. Silk Cotton trees are logged for commercial purpose and this may reduce the availability of suitable nest sites for vultures. The plantation of Bombax ceiba trees around the “vulture restaurant” is needed to improve roosting and nesting opportunities and to help save the dwindling populations.
Planting of Silk Cotton trees Bombax ceiba, for the community managed vulture restaurant in Dang district was started in 2010. One staff member at the vulture restaurant is supported through this project to look after the trees. Another staff member is supported to guard the community forest around Nawalparasi community managed vulture restaurant. These restaurants are targeted to protect vultures in the wild by providing them with food that is not contaminated with diclofenac, the chemical responsible for the poisoning of vultures.
Wise Use and Management of Wetlands
Wetlands are highly dynamic and the most vulnerable ecosystems in Nepal. They cover more than 6% of the total surface areas of the country. Wetlands range from the floodplains of snow-fed cold Himalayan rivers, to rivers originating in the mid-hills, high altitude glacial lakes and hot springs, ponds, ox bow lakes, marshes and swamps. Nepal’s wetlands, particularly those of the Terai are critically important for supporting significant species diversity and populations of globally threatened flora and fauna.
Nepal has a number of wetlands in the country that are important for both people and biodiversity conservation. A long-term bird monitoring program has shown that birds and biodiversity have declined in most lowland wetlands including Ramsar Sites. In matters of wetland conservation, we work closely with the government-funded Conservation and Sustainable Use of Wetlands in Nepal (CSUWN) and with Wetlands International.
Wetland Habitat Restoration at Ghodaghodi Lake
In partnership with Conservation and Sustainable Use of Wetlands in Nepal (CSUWN), a joint undertaking of Government of Nepal/ UNDP and Ghodaghodi Lake Conservation and Awareness Forum, various participatory activities have been completed in the Ghodaghodi Lake Area. These included participatory monitoring of biodiversity and habitat restoration programs. As part of the training, more than 10 community members have been trained who are capable of conducting local level monitoring. Three are now actively carrying out bird and biodiversity surveys in the far west region of Nepal.
Habitat restoration has been completed in the Ghodaghodi Lake Area. The construction of floating islands, creation of additional sand banks for animals to rest and nest, the protection of crocodile breeding areas by fencing, the control of recreational activities and regulation of fishing and natural resources use patterns are included in this program.
Populations of the Cotton Pygmy Goose and Marsh Mugger have increased in the area compared with previous surveys. Both have been identified as indicator species by the CSUWN.
Development of Monitoring Protocol for Indicator Species for the Wetlands of Nepal
Monitoring protocols are study guidelines that explain how data are to be collected, managed, analyzed, and reported and are a key component of quality assurance for the periodic monitoring of natural resources. Statistically appropriate protocols are necessary to ensure that changes detected by monitoring actually are occurring in nature and not simply a result of measurements taken by different people or in slightly different ways. A large number of publications on the subject were reviewed and used to develop a suitable protocol. Monitoring protocols for five indicator species have been developed and presented here with guidelines for future use. The final draft was submitted to the Conservation and Sustainable Use of Wetlands in Nepal/GoN/UNDP-GEF in June 2010.
Elephant Grasslands and the critically endangered Bengal Florican
The tall grasslands of northern India and southern Nepal is considered to be the most threatened habitat type in the region. Nepal has three major habitat types; forests, wetlands and grasslands and as a result of widespread habitat destruction and the over-exploitation of grassland resources, the area of natural grasslands has declined dramatically. Tall elephant grasslands in southern Nepal are home to many species of threatened fauna including the Indian One-horned Rhinoceros, Tiger, Gaur, Elephant, Sloth Bear and Bengal Florican. More than 20 species of critically threatened animals rely heavily or totally on these grasslands. Grass is also a vital resource for local people and now almost all such habitat is restricted to three protected areas of lowland Nepal: Chitwan, Bardia, Koshi and Suklaphanta. Tall grassland, once extending to millions of hectares, now covers less than 500 km.
The importance of grassland as habitat for birds is already documented. Several species of grassland birds are declining including the world’s most critically threatened bustard, the Bengal Florican. Himalayan Nature together with the Bird Education Society aims to increase the population in Nepal by restoring the lost habitat.
Himalayan Bird Hospital in Offing
Some ground work has been completed to establish Nepal’s first bird hospital in Chitwan. The aim of the hospital is to look after injured, sick and orphaned birds to rehabilitate them in the wild. The hospital will be set up as soon as permission is granted to us.