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Carnivore sightings highlight richness of Nepal’s Trans-Himalayan region

  • Scientists recently recorded images of the steppe polecat (Mustela eversmanii), Pallas’s cat (Otocolobus manul) and Eurasian lynx (Lynx lynx) in the country’s Trans-Himalayan region.
  • This was the first time these species had been spotted outside the country’s protected areas, and the first confirmation that they occurred in the little-explored Trans-Himalayan region.
  • The findings were released in a press statement from Nepal’s Department of National Parks and Wildlife Conservation and Department of Forests and Soil Conservation; researchers say academic publications are forthcoming.

KATHMANDU — Scientists in Nepal have recorded three carnivore species outside the country’s protected area network for the first time, highlighting the potential for more discoveries in the little-explored Trans-Himalayan region.
The steppe polecat (Mustela eversmanii), Pallas’s cat (Otocolobus manul) and the Eurasian lynx (Lynx lynx) were documented between July and September 2021 in Limi Valley, Humla district, close to the border with China, Nepal’s Department of National Parks and Wildlife Conservation and the Department of Forests and Soil Conservation said in a joint statement.
Research into the flora and fauna of Nepal’s Trans-Himalayan region, home to iconic species such as snow leopards and wild yaks, has been limited compared to the hills and the plains where better-known species such as greater one-horned rhinos and Bengal tigers are found.
“The number one reason is that Humla was the last district in Nepal to be connected to the road network,” said Naresh Kusi, who photographed the polecat. “The other reason is that it’s pretty expensive to camp in the wilderness for months and physically demanding as well. That’s why many researchers, even those who have worked in the region for some time are reluctant to continue.”
The climate in this part of Nepal is different from the rest of the country as it lies north of the Himalayan range. The world’s highest peaks cast what’s known as a rain shadow over the region, meaning it misses out on the monsoon rains that drench the rest of the country between July and September.
“The present findings call for more dedicated conservation actions to protect the unique biodiversity of Upper Humla,” the departments said.
According to the department of wildlife, the last record of the steppe polecat in Nepal was made in 2014, when it was discovered for the first time in the Annapurna Conservation Area in 2014. “The current record represents the first live observation of the species in Nepal,” said Ramchandra Kandel, director-general of the DNPWC.
The findings were made during fieldwork for a joint project by the Himalayan Wolves Project and Resources Himalaya Foundation in collaboration with various government agencies.

A Pallas’ cat family photographed with a camera trap in Nepal’s Limi Valley. Image courtesy: Himalayan Wolves Project

Individual Pallas’s cats were first recorded in Nepal in 2012 in the Annapurna Conservation Area. “But this time, we have a family photo of the species showing two adults with a cub,” Kandel said.

A Eurasian lynx caught in a camera trap in Nepal’s Limi Valley. Image courtesy: Himalayan Wolves Project

The Eurasian lynx, meanwhile, assessed as vulnerable in Nepal, had previously only been recorded in conservation areas such as Annapurna, Shey-Phoksundo, and Dhorpatan Hunting Reserve. Although residents had reported sightings of the protected species in Humla district in 2013, the current record provides the first conclusive evidence for the species in the area, says the release.

Kusi said he’s always been fascinated by the rich biodiversity of the region. “We hope to continue our work in the future and discover more species in Nepal’s Trans-Himalayan region, especially Humla,” he told Mongabay. “We are also working on some journal articles to convey our findings.”

Banner Image: A steppe polecat photographed in Nepal’s Limi Valley. Image courtesy Naresh Kusi/Himalayan Wolves Project/Resources Himalaya Foundation.

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