- From hispid hares to otters and a critically endangered lizard, Nepal’s lesser-known wild animals live under the shadow of the iconic tiger.
- Officials and conservation stakeholders are yet to come up with concrete plans to save many of these species even as they face the threat of extinction due to habitat loss and fragmentation.
- Other flora and fauna deserve the government’s attention amid these myriad growing threats, researchers told Mongabay in 2023.
KATHMANDU — Nepal’s much-lauded achievement of nearly tripling its tiger population between 2010 and 2022 made headlines all over the world. Officials hailed the milestone as proof that with concerted efforts by all stakeholders and availability of resources, conservation challenges can be overcome.
However, the focus on the charismatic big cat has left other species overlooked — and in some cases has even been to their detriment. Many of these species, just like the tiger (Panthera tigris), are threatened to some degree, yet aren’t getting enough attention, researchers and conservationists say. Throughout 2023, Mongabay reported extensively on different “uncelebrated” animals across the country that require urgent attention. Here are the top five stories looking at the issue
Every year, Nepal’s protected area managers set fire to the grasslands in key tiger habitats across the country to maintain prime conditions for different prey species. However, these actions could have adverse consequences for the elusive and little-known hispid hare Caprolagus hispidus), research shows. Intact grasslands have been found to be important habitats for hispid hares, which need dense ground cover for resting, feeding and mating.
Researchers say the annual grassland burning should be done selectively and outside of the hare’s breeding season to protect the species. They also call on authorities to prepare plans to take urgent action to save the hare from extinction.
Every year, Nepal’s Hindus celebrate their festival of dogs, which they regard as protectors and companions, during the Tihar (Deepavali) festival. However, the domesticated dog’s distant endangered cousins, the wild dog Cuon alpinus), also known as the dhole or Indian wild dog, doesn’t get such attention, even as it faces multiple threats such as habitat loss, conflict, predator competition, disease, and forest fires. Dhole populations are fragmented and declining across Asia, including in Nepal, where there are an estimated 250-750 of the animals.
More research, conservation action plans, community engagement and transboundary cooperation are needed to ensure the survival of the dhole, conservation campaigners say.
In September 2023, a wildlife photographer snapped images of a smooth-coated otter Lutrogale perspicillata) in the Rapti River in Nepal’s Chitwan National Park. This was the first time in more than two decades that the animal was spotted in the protected area. The species is one of three otter species believed to live in Nepal, all of which are threatened by habitat loss and river pollution caused by hydropower development, sand mining and agricultural runoff.
Researchers have called for funding to install camera traps in the Rapti to monitor the presence of otters there.
The dark sitana (Sitana fusca), is lizard known only from a single town in Nepal, and is critically endangered. Researchers studying the species say the loss and degradation of its habitat is due to the BP highway that connects the capital, Kathmandu, with the eastern plains. Unplanned urban development is another looming threat. Researchers studying the dark sitana are also conducting conservation outreach to raise awareness and support for its protection among local communities and stakeholders. The lizard remains understudied and neglected by the government and needs more research and conservation efforts to prevent its extinction, researchers say.
The Chure region in Nepal was considered the prime habitat of sloth bear (</Melursus ursinus) in the country. But the unregulated exploitation of forest resources in the region is likely leading to a lack of food for sloth bears, research indicates. A camera trap study in the subtropical forests of the Chure region recorded far fewer sloth bears compared to similar studies inside protected areas in Nepal. Researchers recommend a conservation plan to address the area between Parsa National Park and Koshi Tappu Wildlife Reserve to benefit sloth bears and other threatened species in Nepal’s lowlands. They also emphasized the need for action to conserve the eastern Chure forests and the establishment of corridors for sloth bear movement.
Banner image: Dholes (Cuon alpinus) are wild canids that range throughout South, Central, East and Southeast Asia. They are listed as endangered, with fewer than 2,500 adults remaining in the wild. Image by Davidvraju via Wikimedia Commons (CC BY-SA 4.0).
Abhaya Raj Joshi is a staff writer for Nepal at Mongabay. Find him on Twitter @arj272.
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