Nepal’s wildlife is officially classified into two main categories: common and protected. The common category lists Nepal as a landlocked country located in South Asia with China in the north and India in the south, east, and west. The country occupies 147,181 sq. km of land and lies between coordinates approximately 28°N and 84°E. Nepal falls in the temperate zone north of the Tropic of Cancer. The entire distance from east to west is about 800 km while from north to south is only 150 to 250 km. Nepal has vast water systems which drain south into India. The country can be divided into three main geographical regions: the Himalayan region, the mid-hill region, and the Tarai region. The highest point in the country is Mt. Everest (8,848 m) while the lowest point is in the Tarai plains of Kechana Kalan in Jhapa (60 m).
The Tarai region has a width ranging from 26km to 32 km and varies in altitude from 60m to 305 m. It occupies about 17 percent of the total land area of the country. Further north, the Siwalik zone (700 – 1,500 m) and the Mahabharat range (1,500m - 2,700m) give way to the Duns (valleys), such as Trijuga, Sindhuli, Chitwan, Dang, and Surkhet. The Midlands (600 – 3,500 m), north of the Mahabharat range is where the two beautiful valleys of Kathmandu and Pokhara lie.
The mountainous region begins at 3000m leading up to the alpine pastures and temperate forests limited by the tree-line at 4,000 m and the snow line at 5000 m. Eight of the world’s highest peaks (out of fourteen) that are above 8000m lie in Nepal: Mount Everest (8,848 m), Kanchenjunga (8,586 m), Lhotse (8,516 m), Makalu (8,463 m), Cho Oyu (8,201m), Dhaulagiri (8,167 m), Manaslu (8,163 m) and Annapurna (8,091 m). The inner Himalayan valley (above 3,600 m) such as Mustang and Dolpo are cold deserts sharing topographical characteristics with the Tibetan plateau. Nepal holds the so-called “waters towers of South Asia” with its 6,000 rivers which are either snow-fed or dependent on rain. The perennial rivers include Mahakali, Karnali, Narayani, and Koshi rivers originating in the Himalayas. Medium-sized rivers like Babai, West Rapti, Bagmati, Kamla, Kankai, and Mechi originate in the Midlands and Mahabharat range.
Of the163 wetlands documented, the nine globally recognized Ramsar Sites are: Koshi Tappu Wildlife Reserve, Beeshazarital (Chitwan), Jagdishpur Reservoir (Kapilvastu) Ghodaghodi Tal (Kailali) in the Tarai, and Gokyo (Solukhumbu), Phoksundo (Dolpa), Rara (Mugu) and Mai Pokhari (Ilam) in the mountainous region. There are more than 30 natural caves in the country out of which only a few are accessible by road. Maratika Cave (also known as Haleshi) is a pilgrimage site associated with both Buddhism and Hinduism. Siddha Cave is below BNDIPUR near Bimal Nagar along the Kathmandu-Pokhara highway. Pokhara is also known for caves namely Bats’ shed (Mahendra Gufa), Batulechar, Gupteswar, and Patale Chango. The numerous caves around Lo Manthang in Mustang include Luri and Tashi Kabum which house ancient murals and chortens dating back to the 13th century.
Such species include the common leopard, spotted deer, Himalayan tahr, and blue sheep. These species are commonly seen in the wild. The protected species include 26 mammals, nine birds, and three reptiles. These rare animals are confined to their prime habitats.
Please click Protected Species for details.
185 species of mammals are found in various parts of Nepal. Nepal’s dense Tarai jungles are homes to exotic animals like the Asiatic elephant, the one-horned rhinoceros, and the Royal Bengal tiger among others. Also found here are the leopard, Rhesus monkey, langur, hyena, jackal, wild boar, antelope, wild cat, wolf, sloth bear, chital or spotted deer, and barking deer. Wild buffalo locally called “Arna” is found in the Koshi Tappu region. The western Tarai jungles of Suklaphanta are home to the swamp deer, while the endangered blackbucks are located in the Bardia region.
Gangetic dolphins are found in the fresh waters of the Narayani and Karnali rivers. The Himalayan region is also home to the elusive snow leopard and the red panda. Red pandas, rarely seen because of their shy nature, are found around the Langtang National Park to Kanchenjunga Conservation Area. Other mammals that live at high altitudes are yak, blue sheep, Himalayan tahr, and musk deer. While otters are found in the Rara region northwest, the Dhorpatan Hunting Reserve is home to the blue sheep and the Himalayan tahr.
Reptiles: Nepal has two indigenous species of crocodile: the fish-eating gharial with a long narrow snout and the marsh mugger which is omnivorous, eating anything it can catch. A very successful breeding project has brought the gharial back from extinction. Among the snakes found in Nepal, there are cobras, kraits, vipers, the Indian python, etc. Other reptiles found in the country are turtles and monitor lizards. Some of these reptiles can be seen in the Chitwan National Park and Bardia National Park.
Birds: Nepal has more than 850 recorded species of birds. Amazingly, half of these birds can be seen in and around the Kathmandu valley alone. The hills around the valley especially Nagarjun, Godavari, and Phulchowki are popular birding areas. Phulchowki at 2,760 m boasts about 90 bird species including the endemic spiny babbler, which was thought to be extinct until it was spotted in Nepal. Another rare species of bird, the red-headed trogon, was also sighted here in April 2000. Taudaha lake on the outskirts of Kathmandu is popular for migrant waterfowl during the winter.
National parks like Chitwan and Bardia harbor a wide variety of birds. The Koshi Tappu region is home to an incredibly large species of resident and migratory birds. It has about 26 varieties of ducks alone. About 485 species have been sighted here, including black ibis, honey kites, ospreys, black-headed orioles, peregrine falcon, partridges, ruddy shelduck, storks, vultures, and eagles among others. The higher Himalayan region is home to many species of raptors and birds of prey. Nepal’s national bird, the Danphe or Impeyen pheasant, is also found in the Himalayan region. A rare bird known as Jerdon’s baza was sighted in Nepal while there is an effort to conserve Sarus cranes in Lumbini.
For more information about Nepal’s wildlife,
Please visit: http://www.dnpwc.gov.np/
(official website of the Department of National Parks & Wildlife Conservation, Ministry of Forests & Soil Conservation).