Nepal is a biodiversity hotspot due to its broad ecoregions that include mountainous areas, savannah and grasslands, and marine ecosystems. The country has established numerous parks and reserves to protect its diverse fauna since it adopted the National Parks and Wildlife Conservation Act of 1973. By 1992, the country had seven national parks covering a total of approximately 3,500 square miles. A decade later, it had nine national parks, three conservation reserves, three wildlife reserves, four world heritage sites, three Ramsar sites, and one hunting reserve. There are about 208 mammal species in Nepal, including the clouded leopard, Bengal Fox, Bengal tiger, Asian elephant, and the Tibetan wolf. Snakes and lizards dominate the reptiles. There are over 800 bird species and 27 bird sanctuaries in Nepal. One species is endemic; one is introduced, and30 are globally threatened. The danphe pheasant is the national bird. Other bird species include warblers, flycatchers, minivets, and cuckoos. The following are some animals found in Nepal.
The clouded leopard is found in the foothills of the Himalayas through Southeast Asia and Southern China. It was listed as vulnerable in 2008 since its wild population is fewer than 10,000 individuals and declining. The clouded leopard was believed to be extinct in Nepal since the 1860s, but in 1987 four individuals were observed near Chitwan National Park. The presence of the leopards extended their range westwards and proved that the animal could survive in degraded woodlands. Since then, a few individuals have been spotted in Annapurna Conservation Reserve and Shivapuri Nagarjuna Park. The clouded leopard is also found in Bangladesh, India, Myanmar, Bhutan, China, Thailand, and Malaysia. It has since been declared extinct in Taiwan and Singapore.
The red panda is native to Southwestern China and Eastern Himalayas. It is an endangered species since there are fewer than 10,000 individuals in the wild and continues to decline due to poaching, habitat destruction, inbreeding, and fragmentation. The red panda and the giant panda are not closely related but have similar characteristics such as tree climbing and preference for bamboo. It is found in a cool temperate climate where it survives by eating bamboo, cane, grass, and fruits. In Nepal, they can be found in Langtang, Sagarmatha, and Makalu-Barun national parks. Unfortunately, they are close to vanishing in these areas due to poaching.
Greater One-horned Rhinoceros
The greater one-horned rhinoceros is the second largest animal in Asia after the Asian elephant. It is found across South East Asia and South Asia. It is an endangered species with less than 2,000 individuals in the wild. About 90% of the animals are found in Kaziranga National Park, India (1,200), and Chitwan Valley in Nepal (600). A few animals are found along the border between Bhutan and India. Before the 1950s, there were more than 1000 rhinos in Chitwan Valley, but human activities drove the animals to less than 100 individuals by the late 1960s. A massive conservation effort by the government recovered the species from imminent extinction.
The Bengal tiger is native to the Indian subcontinent. The species is threatened by loss of habitat and poaching. At the beginning of the decade, there were about 2,500 individuals in the wild, but the population has since risen to about 3,300 thanks to conservation efforts. India has the largest number of Bengal tigers at about 1,900, a further 400 are in Bangladesh, 235 in Nepal, and 100 in Bhutan. Despite the loss of habitat in Nepal, the population of Bengal tigers in the wild has nearly doubled in the past decade to 235 individuals. However, the population is significantly lower compared to the 1950s. Bengal tigers are found in Chitwan National Park, Parsa Wildlife Reserve, and Bardia National Park.
The Asian elephant is the largest mammal in Asia though it is smaller than its African counterpart. They are found across the Indian subcontinent and Southeast Asia. The elephant was listed as endangered in 1986, and since then, the population has declined by over 50%. Elephants are part of the Nepalese culture and are domesticated for various purposes. They are a symbol of strength and social status. There are about 46,000 elephants in Asia, of which a third are captive. Wild populations are found in Chure hills, Chitwan National Park, Suklaphanta Wildlife Reserve, Parsa Wildlife Reserve, and Bardia National Park. The elephants of Nepal are endangered as they are hunted for their tusks and teeth.
The great hornbill is found across the Indian subcontinent and Southeast Asia. It is important in many tribal rituals and cultures for its impressive color and size. The bird has a long life span of about 50 years in captivity. Greater hornbills are found in groups of up to 150 birds. They congregate in fruit trees where they spend the entire day foraging for fruits and small insects. They were found in plenty in the Terai region of Nepal, but poaching has significantly reduced their population. The fat and bones of the hornbill are used to prepare traditional medicine. The greater hornbill is a protected species in the country.
Asiatic Rock Python
The Asiatic rock python is also known as the black-tailed python, Indian python, or Indian rock python. It is lighter-colored compared to the Burmese python and can reach 9.8 ft from head to tail. The snake is found in Bangladesh, Myanmar, Pakistan, Bhutan, India, Sri Lanka, and Nepal. The Asian rock pythons inhabit the swamps, grasslands, marshes, river valleys, and open forests of Nepal, where they spend time in trees, mangroves tickets, and burrows. They feed on birds, small mammals, and reptiles. Although they avoid humans, they are attracted to settlements by domestic animals.
The Assamese monkey is a near-threatened species. It is unique to Nepal and is believed to be an entirely separate species from other monkeys. The Assamese monkeys have a lifespan of about 31 years. They inhabit the tropical and subtropical forests, but their population has significantly declined compared to the 1980s due to illegal hunting and loss of habitat. The Raute people hunt and eat the monkeys while many more are killed as they invade farmlands.
Ganges River Dolphin
The Ganges River dolphin is one of the four freshwater dolphins. It is found in the Brahmaputra and Ganges Rivers and their tributaries in Bangladesh, Nepal, and India. The dolphin has poor sight since it lacks an eye lens and is sometimes known as the blind dolphin. Unfortunately, these dolphins live in one of the world’s most densely populated regions and are therefore threatened by pollution and habitat loss.
Pangolins are locally known as “salak” in Nepal. They are insectivorous animals with scale in their back. When threatened, the animals curl into a ball. Pangolins are living fossils since they have undergone a minor evolutionary change in the past 80 million years. Unfortunately, they are among the most trafficked animals in the world due to their precious scales that are used to make traditional medicine in China and other parts of Southeast Asia.