For our next generation, we must take some important steps to protect these beautiful species of animals
Species that are likely to become extinct in the near future either from the entire world or from a particular area are categorized as endangered species. The International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN), an international organization working in the field of natural conservation and sustainable use of natural resources has evaluated 63,873 species. Among them, 19,817 species are extinct; 3,947 species placed in the critically endangered category; 5,766 qualified as endangered, and over 10,000 species landed under vulnerable. The risk factor being habitat loss due to deforestation, poaching and an increase in invasive species.
Nations throughout the world have laws to protect these endangered species and Nepal is not different from them. According to the World Bank data of 2018, about 23% of the terrestrial land of Nepal is under the protection of the Nepal Government. There are 12 national parks, a wildlife reserve and 6 conservation areas. The government of Nepal is implementing policies that will help sustain wildlife and habitat with the advice and agreement of industry experts and scientists. There are many community bases anti-poaching efforts that have been effective in preserving wildlife. Here are some of the important endangered species of animals found in Nepal.
This magnificent beast is known for its characteristic one hour and skin resembling the armour plating. Weighing up to 2-2.5 metric tons, One-horned Rhino (Rhinoceros unicornis) is a gray giant, second only to an elephant in size. The greater one-horned rhinoceros is commonly found only in South Asia and Southeast Asia. A typical lifespan of rhino is about 40-50 years. Rhinos inhabit the alluvial flood-plain vegetation of subtropical climate, lowland grassland, swamps where water and green grass are available throughout the year. So, the Terai region or the southern part of Nepal is best for rhino habitat. Chitwan National Park houses about 600 rhinos of 2000 rhinos of the wild. Other national parks like Bardia National Park and Shuklaphanta National Park are also playing an important role in increasing the number of rhinos.
Snow Leopard is an apex predator of the Himalayan ecosystem and is found only in the mountains of central and Southern Asia. The current estimated population of Snow Leopard in the world, ranging from 4000-6000 with Nepal housing an estimated 350-500 Snow Leopards. In Nepal, Snow Leopards are mostly found in Mustang, Mugu, Dolpa and Humla districts. They are characterized by its smoky grey fur coat covered by dark gray spots. They have short forelimbs and long hind limbs that provide agility in steep and rugged terrains. Also, their long tail aids in balancing on cliffs. The snow leopard weighs about 35-55 kg and grows up to 1.8 – 2.3m. The snow leopards pelts, bones and other body parts are in high demand for oriental medicines and are poached.
Asian Elephants (Elephas maximus) is one of the largest land mammals, distributed throughout the Indian subcontinent and southeast Asia. In Nepal, they are found in the forest of the Terai region. Parsa National Park, Bardiya National Park, Shuklaphanta Wildlife Reserves, and Chitwan National Park are the major places to find wild Asian Elephants. These animals are thought to be very intelligent and have excellent memory power. Like humans, they are very social and have a long lifespan of about 60-70 years. A fully matured elephant can weight about 5000 kg.
They have an elongated nose which is known as a trunk; it is used for picking objects and moving heavy stuff. The tusk is the most significant feature of an elephant. The tusk dig for the water, debark or uproot the trees, as a weapon for offence and defence. Their tusks are considered as a very costly commodity and have a high price throughout the world. There are many national parks and hattisars working to protect these amazing beasts. And with the help of the locals and field experts, the government is doing as best as it can in protecting the Asian Elephants.
Pangolins, the world’s most smuggled mammal. More than 20 percent of all illegal wildlife trade comprises the pangolin. The name Pangolin is derived from the Malay word which means “something that rolls up”. Among the four species of Asian Pangolins, two species are found in Nepal, namely, Chinese Pangolin, Manis pentadactyla and Indian Pangolin, Manis crassicaudata. Its body is covered with hard scales whereas the head is small, smooth and lacks teeth. Known as ‘Salak’ in Nepali, it is estimated to be about 5000 pangolins in the year 2016. They are mainly found in the primary and secondary subtropical forests throughout Nepal from Terai to the mid-hills region. They prefer to live in open lands, agricultural lands and near the human settlement. Pangolins are nocturnal animals i.e active during the night and live in holes during the day. Pangolins are insectivorous and their diets mainly consist of ants and termites supplemented by insect larvae.
More than 100,000 wild pangolins are poached from Africa, Southeast Asia and South Asia every year. Most are destined for China where scales of the mammals are used in traditional medicine, believed to cure illnesses, heart diseases, cancer and female reproductive disorders. The fresh blood of a pangolin is said to be an aphrodisiac. They are also considered as a delicacy and sold as the most expensive item in many restaurants.
Red Panda (Ailurus fulgens) has a characteristic reddish-brown, thick fur and has a raccoon-like appearance. They mainly reside in the temperate forest of bamboo, cane and oaks in western Nepal at an altitude of 2200m to 4800m. 80% of their diet is contributed by the bamboo leaves and shoots. However, they also feed on fruits, berries and other seasonal fruits found in the forest. It is estimated that there are about 10,000 Red Pandas left in the world and among them, about 1000 are found in the forest of Nepal. Records of Red panda appearance are found in Rara, Shey- Phoksundo, Langtang, Sagarmatha, and Makalu Barun National Park and many other protected areas like Annapurna, Manaslu, Gaurishankar, and Kanchanjunga Conservation Areas.
An increase in the human population has led to habitat degradation of the Red Panda. Deforestation for agricultural land and settlement has pushed the Red Pandas outside the protected area. Red Panda is mainly poached for their beautiful fur and meat. The demand for fur is very high and is sold in very expensive amounts in the black market.
Nepal is the home for many of the endangered species. However, for the past few decades, it has become the main trading route for smuggling the endangered species to China. The government officers and the local people in conjunction should together and help to save these vulnerable species.