National Parks of Nepal

national parks worldwide

Nepal exists as a narrow landlocked country that separates India from China. About the size of Iowa, the Democratic Republic of Nepal, has nearly 60 ethnic groups, at least 70 languages and at least 6 religions. Nepali is the official language of Nepal; however, most educated people speak and understand English as well.

Nepal is one of the poorest and least developed countries in the world, ranked 138th in Human Development Index and included on the list of 10 least developed countries in Asia and Oceania . Nepal’s rapidly growing human population is putting increased pressure on its natural resources and wildlife. In, Nepal, with only about 40 percent of its population having access to electricity, most people still use firewood to cook with and to heat their homes. This continued demand for firewood has led to significant habitat destruction in some parts of Nepal. Over one-third of Nepal’s population still live two hours or more walking distance from the nearest permanent road. While agriculture employs over three-quarters of Nepal’s population, it accounts for just over one-third of Nepal’s economy.

National Parks Worldwide  Map of Nepal

Tourism accounts for nearly three percent of Nepal’s economy and is one of the country’s biggest sources of foreign currency. More than half a million foreign tourists visit Nepal annually. Nepal’s spectacular landscapes and diverse, exotic cultures drive its tourism industry, but political instability and poor infrastructure have restricted tourism growth.

The city of Kathmandu is Nepal’s capital and the biggest and most cosmopolitan city in Nepal. Tourism is a major source of income, either directly or indirectly, for most people living in Kathmandu. The city lies in the picturesque Kathmandu Valley of central Nepal at an elevation of about 4,600 feet. The Kathmandu Valley is surrounded by four major mountains: Shivapuri, Phulchoki, Nagarjun, and Chandragiri. The neighbor cities of Patan, Kirtipur, Thimi, and Bhaktapur are also located in the Kathmandu Valley. Kathmandu Valley has been collectively designated as one of Nepal’s several UNESCO World Heritage Sites.

The Tribhuvan International Airport in Kathmandu is the only international airport in Nepal so most foreigners visiting Nepal fly into Kathmandu. Domestic air service is primarily provided by the Royal Nepal Airlines, which operates a network of air service to other parts of Nepal. Royal Nepal Airlines has scheduled connecting flights from Kathmandu to the following cities in Nepal: TapIeJung, Bhadrapur, Rajbiraj, Bhojpur, Phaplu, Lukia, Lamidanda, Tunmlingtar, Rumjatar, Biratnagar, Simra, Janakpur, Ramechhhap, Bharatpur, Meghauli Pokhara, Jomsom, Manang, Baglung, Bhairahawa Nepalgunj Chaurjhahari, Surkhet, Dang, Dolpa, Jumia, Bajura, Dipayal, Darchula, Mahendranagar, Dhangadi, Tikapur and Sanfebagar. There are also a several other domestic airlines such as Nepal Airways, Agni Air, Buddha Air, Yeti Airlines, Everest Air, Asian Helicopters, Lumbini Airways and Cosmic Airways which provide regular and charter services to various locations within Nepal.

Kathmandu is connected with the Indian border at Birganj/Raxaul through the picturesque Tribhuvan Highway. Built in the 1950’s through the fertile Terai plains and named in memory of Nepal’s King Tribhuvan, this highway is the oldest in Nepal. Foreign visitors are permitted to drive their own vehicles into Nepal, but each vehicle must possess an international carnet. The Prithvi Highway connects Kathmandu to the tourist city of Pokhara located about one hundred miles to the west. The Araniko Highway connects Kathmandu with Kodari, about 70 miles northeast of the Kathmandu Valley, on the Nepal-China border. The Araniko Highway is one of the most dangerous highways in Nepal with its very steep Himalayan mountainsides that are extremely prone to landslides. The construction of the Banepa Sindhuli Bardibas highway started in November 1996. This highway will eventually connect Kathmandu Valley with the Eastern Terai about 95 miles away, but it is still uncompleted.

There is also regular bus service to Kathmandu from the Kakarbhitta, Birganj, Belahiya (Bhairahawa), Nepalgunj, Dhangadi, and Mahendra Nagar entry points on the Nepal-India border, as well as, the single Kodari entry point on the Nepal-China border. Bus service from Kathmandu Valley to various other parts of Nepal is available at the Gongabu bus terminal.

Historically, the Newars have been the major ethnic group living in the Kathmandu Valley. The Gurungs and Magars ethnic groups live mainly in western Nepal. The Rais, Limbus and Sunuwars inhabits the slopes and valleys of the Eastern mid hills; while the Sherpas live mainly in the Himalayan region. The Terai plains contain the Tharus, Yadavas, Satar, Rajvanshis and Dhimals. The Brahmans, Chhetris and Thakuris have generally spread throughout Nepal.

Nepal is the birthplace of Gautama Buddha the founder of Buddhism. Born in the city of Lumbini, which lies in the Southwestern Terai plains of Nepal, Siddhartha Gautama lived roughly between 623 and 543 BC. For this reason, Lumbini evokes a kind of holy sentiment to millions of Buddhists all over the world. Lumbini and the surrounding landscape are endowed with a rich natural beauty; and Lumbini is one of four places pivotal in the life of the Buddha that inspire regular pilgrimage; the others being at Kushinagar, Bodh Gaya and Sarnath. The holy site of Lumbini has ruins of ancient monasteries, a sacred Bodhi tree, an ancient bathing pond, the Asokan pillar and the Mayadevi temple. From early morning to early evening, pilgrims from various countries perform chanting and meditation at the site.

Interestingly, Hindus regard the Buddha as an incarnation of Vishnu and thousands of Hindu pilgrims also come to Lumbini on the full moon of the Nepali month of Baisakh (April–May) to worship Maya Devi as Rupa Devi, the mother goddess of Lumbini.

Hinduism and Buddhism constitute the two major religions of Nepal, with over 80 percent of Nepal’s population being Hindu. A remarkable feature of Nepal is the religious homogeneity what exists, particularly between the Hindu and Buddhist Communities. Along from the Hinduism and Buddhism, Islam is the third most popular religion in Nepal.

Lumbini is one of several UNESCO World Heritage Sites located in Nepal. Lumbini is a seven hour drive from Kathmandu. The closest airport to Lumbini, with flights to and from Kathmandu, is Gautam Buddha Airport, less than an hour away in the city of Bhairahawa.

Nepal is a relatively small country, but it is a land of extreme diversity in geography, climate, and wildlife. Nepal’s topography rises from lowlands in the south to Himalayan mountain tops in the north, including the highest mountain on earth, Mount Everest. The monsoon rainfall and relatively warm temperatures have allowed subtropical jungles to thrive in Nepal’s lowlands while arctic conditions exist on Nepal’s extreme mountain peaks. At the various altitudes in between nearly every possible climate zone occurs within this small country. As a result, Nepal has a great variety of different habitats that support a wide variety of flora and fauna. While less than one percent of the world’s total land mass, Nepal is home to over four percent of all the species of mammals, over eight percent of all bird species and over two percent of all flowering plants found on this planet. Nepal also has 35 types of forest and over 100 ecosystems. Nepal one of the planet’s biodiversity hot spots.

Wildlife of Nepal

Natioanl Parks Worldwide  Red Panda Nepal

Nepal has over 180 species of mammal including Bengal fox, Bengal tiger, clouded leopard, corsac fox, Indian rhinoceros, marbled cat, red panda, snow leopard, Tibetan fox, and Tibetan wolf. Found in Nepal’s dense jungles are home to exotic animals like the Asiatic elephant, the Asian one-horned rhinoceros, the royal Bengal tiger, the leopard, the langur, the striped hyena, the jackal, the wild boar, wild buffalo, the wild cat, the Tibetan wolf, the sloth bear, swamp deer, the chital or spotted deer and the barking deer. Nepal even has dolphins found in the fresh waters of Narayani and Karnali rivers. The Himalayans are home to the elusive snow leopard and the red panda. Red panda, a rare sight because of its shy nature, may be found from Langtang region to Kanchenjunga region. Other mammals found in the high mountain areas include the yak, the blue sheep, the Himalayan tahr and the musk deer. Otters are found in the Rara region in the northwest. Endemic mammals include Csorba’s Mouse-eared Bat (Myotis csorbai) and the Nepalese Field Mouse (Apodemus gurkha).

Nepal has two indigenous species of crocodile: the marsh crocodile (Crocodylus palustries) or “mugger” and the fish-eating gharial (Gavialis gangeticus) with the long narrow snout. A very successful breeding project has brought the gharial back from near extinction, although it is still an endangered species. Snakes found in Nepal include the various species of cobras; kraits; and vipers, the northern white-lipped pit viper (Trimeresurus albolabris septentrionalis), the Himalayan pit viper (Gloydius himalayanus), the Shah’s bamboo pit viper (Trimeresurus karanshahi) and the Tibetan pit viper (Gloydius strauchi); as well as the Indian python. Other reptiles found in Nepal include the elongated tortoise (Indotestudo elongata), and various lizards, like the three-keeled mountain lizard (Japalura tricarinata), the Bengal monitor (Varanus bengalensis) and the golden monitor (Varanus flavescens).

Lizards found only in Nepal include Sitana fusca, Sitana sivalensis, Japalura dasi, the Annapurna Ground Skink (Scincella capitanea), a lidless skink Asymblepharus nepalensis, and the geckos, Cyrtodactylus martinstolli and Cyrtodactylus nepalensis. Shah’s Bamboo Pit Viper (Trimeresurus karanshahi) is also endemic to Nepal. 1Over 50 species of amphibians are found in Nepal. Endemic amphibians include the Chitwan Burrowing Frog (Sphaerotheca maskeyi), Dubois’ Paa Frog (Nanorana rostandi), the Nepal High Altitude Toad (Scutiger nepalensis), and the Narayanghat Whipping Frog (Polypedates zed).

Nepal has over 900 species of birds, including the black ibis, the honey kite, the osprey, the black-headed oriole, the peregrine falcon, eight species of stork, six species of pheasant, six species of minivet, seventeen different cuckoos, thirty flycatchers, twenty-six varieties of ducks and sixty species of warblers. Nearly 450 species of birds can be found in and around the Kathmandu Valley. Nepal’s national parks, like Chitwan National Park and Bardia National Park, are also home to a wide variety of birds. Several species of raptors and the impeyen pheasant (Lophophorus impejanus), the national bird of Nepal, are found in the higher Himalayan region. The spiny babbler (Turdoides nipalensis) is the only species of bird endemic to Nepal.

Over 150 species of fish are found in Nepal include pharping catfish (Myersglanis blythii), Nepalese minnow (Psilorhynchus pseudecheneis), Nepalese snowtrout (Schizothorax macrophthalmus), erethistid catfishes (Erethistoides ascita and Erethistoides cavatura), bagrid catfish (Batasio macronotus), Psilorhynchus nepalensis, and various sisorid catfishes (such as Pseudecheneis eddsi, Pseudecheneis crassicauda and Pseudecheneis serracula).

Invertebrate species found in Nepal include ground beetles, like Cychropsis nepalensis and Nebria molendai, the dung beetle (Caccobius scheuerni), the long-horned beetle (Hesperoclytus katarinae), moth (Heterolocha mariailgeae), katydid (Isopsera caligula), mole cricket (Gryllotalpa pygmaea), grasshopper (Nepalocaryanda latifrons), bee (Andrena kathmanduensis), ant-mimicking thrips (Franklinothrips strasseni), damselfly (Calicnemia nipalica), tarantula (Haplocosmia nepalensis), goblin spider (Brignolia ankhu), jumping spider (Euophrys omnisuperstes), scorpion (Heterometrus nepalensis), centipede (Cryptops nepalensis), land snail (Laevozebrinus nepalensis), and aquatic snail (Tricula mahadevensis).

Among the 400 endemic vascular plant species are leione coronaria and Oreorchis porphyranthes , Rhododendron lowndesii, Delphinium himalayai, Saxifraga alpigena, Roscoea capitata, Clematis phlebantha, Zanthoxylum nepalense, Silene fissicalyx, Himalayacalamus porcatus, Euphorbia schillingii, Meconopsis regia, Meconopsis autumnalis, Oxytropis williamsii, Aconitum bhedingense, Primula aureate, Primula sharmae, Primula wigramiana, and Discretitheca nepalensis.

Nepal can be divided into five physiographic regions: Terai, Siwaliks, Middle Mountains, High Mountains and High Himalayas with considerably climate variation between the regions. During the monsoon season (between June to September), Nepal receives nearly 80% of its annual rainfall.

The Terai runs along the southern border of Nepal and extends north to the southern edge of the Siwalik Hills. The Terai consists of swamps, tall marshy grasslands and riverine, mixed hardwood and Sal (Shorea robusta) subtropical forests. The lowland plains of the Terai generally lie at an altitude of between 200 and 1,000 feet above sea level. The climate is hot and humid.

In the past, the Terai was a formidable barrier between Nepal and potential invaders from India because the Terai’s swamps, marshes and forests were infested by anopheline mosquitos that transmitted virulent strains of malaria. Prior to the mid-1950s, malaria threat was so prevalent in the Terai that it prevented extensive human settlement. There was a small population of indigenous people, the Tharu, who had been living in the Terai for centuries, and reputedly had a genetic resistance to malaria. However, people from other regions were unable to move into this area because of the high risk of malaria.

With the use of pesticides to kill the mosquito vector, malaria was eradicated in many parts of the Terai. The eradication of malaria in the Terai enabled settlement by investors from both India and Nepal who introduced modern agricultural techniques, as well as, poor subsistence farmers from the hills of Nepal. The intensive settlement that followed caused the displacement or disenfranchisement of the indigenous Tharu, the clearing of numerous forest lands and other changes to the natural environment that threaten biodiversity and have contributed to increasingly severe flooding downstream in the countries of India and Bangladesh. Today over half of Nepal’s population lives in this lowland region. This has place a heavy strain on the natural resources and wildlife of the Terai.

Once rich in wildlife the Terai has been home to over 80 mammal species, more than 500 bird species, and nearly 50 species of reptiles and amphibians, including species such as mugger crocodile, swamp deer, musk deer, black buck, gaur, Asian one-horned rhinoceros, royal bengal tiger, Asian elephant, Gangetic river dolphin and gharial. Many of these animal species are threatened or endangered today. The Terai also contains over 125 fish species and more than 2,100 species of flowering plant. Today, the Terai is home to the last remaining population of Wild Asian Water Buffalo in Nepal and the second largest population of the Asian one-horned rhinoceros in the world. It also supports many other endangered wildlife species such as the Asian elephant, black buck, gaur, and Gangetic river dolphin. This area is also rich in birdlife including a variety of babbles and orioles, koels and drongos, peacocks and floricans, as well as, many species of wintering wildfowl.

In the Terai region of southeast Nepal is the Koshi Tappu Wildlife Reserve, the home of Nepal’s last remaining population of Wild Asian Wild Water Buffalo (Bubalus arnee). Koshi Tappu is Nepal’s most significant wetland conservation area, consisting of swaps, grasslands and small patches of riverine forest. Koshi Tappu is an important bird reserve visited by many international birders.

Beyond the Terai plains lie the first of the Himalayan foothills, the Siwaliks. Situated north of the Siwaliks are broad, low valleys of the Terai , called the Doons. These valleys are flat with winding rivers that shift course over time, running northwest or southeast following the Siwalik range until there is a break and the rivers can flow into the plains of the Terai and India’s Gangetic plain. These valleys are similar to the Terai plains with swamps, tall elephant grass, and ox-bow lakes where some of the last of the one-horned rhinoceros still live. The Chitwan National Park is found in one such valley of central Nepal and is the first and best protected area in Nepal. Once Chitwan was a famous big game hunting reserves in Asia. The Chitwan National Park now protects a large number of mammal species, including one-horned rhinoceros, royal bengal tiger, leopard, sloth bear and gaur, as well as, over 400 species of birds.

Although the Terai represents around 15 percent of Nepal’s land mass, this region is highly fertile and contains over 40 percent of the cultivated land of Nepal. Today the Terai is the most productive region in Nepal where crops like rice, wheat, pulses, sugarcane, jute, tobacco, and maize are now farmed.

Beyond the plains of the Terai lie the first of the Himalayan foothills, the Siwaliks, also known as the Muree, Chure Hills or Subhimalaya. This region consists of subtropical, coniferous and mixed hardwood forests, including chir pine, deciduous and evergreen forests. The Siwaliks region provides important habitat for species such as Gaur (Bos gaurus), Four-horned Antelope (Tetracerus quadricornis) and Sloth Bear (Melursus ursinus). The Siwaliks rise up to about 1,200 meters. The Siwaliks are also notable for the extensive fossil deposits of Pleistocene mammals, including 10 species of elephants, six species of rhinoceros, hippopotamus, saber-toothed cats, and various species of antelopes and primates.

Further north of the Siwaliks and the Terai valleys, the topography rises up to the Middle Mountains, which include the Mahabharat range. This region has a temperate climate and contains hardwood, pine and subalpine forest, as well as, an important bamboo habitat that is vital to the survival of species such as Red Panda (Ailurus fulgens). This region is also highly cultivated using terraced farming techniques.

The High Mountains region rises up to altitudes of around 12,000 feet and has a cool subalpine climate. The region has temperate and subalpine forests and scrubland which both coniferous and hardwood species such as oak (Quercus spp.), fir (Abies spectabilis), and birch (Betula spp.). There are also mixed broadleaved and rhododendron forests. This region has some of the least disturbed forests in Nepal, probably as a result of relatively low human population and general inaccessibility. Species such as the Himalayan Pika (Ochotona himalayana), the gorgeous multi-colored lmpeyan pheasant (Nepal’s national bird), Himalayan goral (Naemorhedus goral), Himalayan serow (Capricornis thar), and leopard, as well as, various species of deer, and monkey live here. Other endangered birds, like the koklas and Cheer Pheasants, are also found here. The Khapted National Park occurs in the High Mountain region.

Along the northern border of Nepal neighboring China, is the High Himalayas with seven of the top ten highest peaks in the world, including the highest, Mount Sagarmatha (formerly known as Mount Everest rising up over 8,800 meters. The landscape of this region is primarily subalpine forests, alpine vegetation, peaks permanently covered in snow and glaciers. The High Himalayas include the Trans-Himalayan area in the northwest, which is virtually treeless. The High Himalaya is one of the most vulnerable global regions to the impacts of climate change. Himalayan glaciers of this region appear to be shrinking, which could have major implications on drinking water supplies, biodiversity, local hydropower, and local industry and agriculture, as well as, increasing the threat of Tsunami and glacial lake outbursts. Species that occur in this landscape include the snow leopard (Panthera uncia), blue sheep ( ), Himalayan tahr (Hemitragus jemlahicus), Tibetan gazelle (Procapra picticaudata) and grey wolf (Canis lupus), lynx ( ) and black bear. The Sherpas, Manabga, and Dolpa-bas are some of those ethic groups who farm and graze their livestock in the high mountain pastures. Langtang, Sagarmatha (Everest), Shey-Phoksundo and Rara National Parks are the protected high altitude areas of Nepal.

Nearly 25 percent of the Nepal’s landmass is designated as protected area, with ten national parks, three wildlife reserves, and five conservation areas that are helping to preserve such critically endangered species as the royal bengal tiger (Panthera tigris tigris), Asian elephant (Elephas maximus), Asian one-horned rhino (Rhinoceros unicornis) and Asian river dolphin (Platanista gangetica.

The government of Nepal has set aside over 20,000 square kilometers of protected areas that include as many biogeographic regions as possible to assure conservation of the maximum numbers of wildlife species. These nature sanctuaries attract wildlife enthusiasts and tourists from all over the world and each park and reserve has its own attraction.

Most Nepali National Parks are not “untouched” environments, but rather have a long history of use by humans. Many national parks incorporate grazing, farming, wood gathering, survival hunting, and human habitation into their boundaries, as well as tourism and trekking. These uses are not without their tensions and their environmental stresses. But there’s also something wonderful about this close association of humans and the natural environment; a trip to a Nepali national park always involves interacting with other cultures as well as with the raw stuff of nature.

All National Park and Conservation Area permits can be issued and paid for at the ACAP office in Kathmandu.

Nepal National Parks

Name of (Year of Area Altitude
National Park Establishment) (km2) (m)

Chitwan National Park

1973 932 150-815

Bardia National Park

1976/1988 968 152-1,494

Shivapuri National Park

2002 144 1,366-2,732

Khaptad National Park

1984 225 1,000-3,276

Makalu Barun NationalPark

1991 1,500 435-8,463

Sagarmatha National Park

1976 1,148 2,800-8,850

Langtang National Park

1976 1,710 792-7,245

Shey Phoksundo National Park

1984 3,555 2,000-6,885

Rara National Park

1976 106 1,800-4,048
Total 10,288

 

 

 

Chitwan National Park
Sagarmatha National Park

Langtang National Park

Rara National Park

Khaptad National Park

Shey Phoksundo National Park

Bardia National Park

Makalu Barun National Park

Shivapuri Nagarjun National Park

Banke National Park

Other Information:
The Birds of Sukla Phanta Wildlife Reserve, Nepal

The Return of the Unicorns: The Natural History and Conservation of the Greater One-Horned Rhinoceros

The Terai Arc Landscape Bengal Tigers in the Himalayas’ Shadow

Snow Leopards in Nepal

Home Range, Movement and Habitat Use of Snow Leopard (Uncia Uncia)in Nepal

natioal parks worldwide

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