The Wild Water Buffalo Count 2021 in Koshi Tappu Wildlife Reserve (KTWR) that started early last week on April 18 has concluded yesterday. Results from the count have established 498 wild water buffaloes in Nepal—221 adult male, 162 adult female, 48 semi-adult, and 67 calf. Compared to the last count in 2018 that had counted 441 individuals this is a 12.9 percent population growth. The operation was led by the Department of National Parks and Wildlife Conservation (DNPWC), with support from NTNC, the Nepal Army, buffer zone management committees, and local community groups and stakeholders.
Preparations started with an orientation training for technicians and enumerator staffs involved in the counting. Considering the risk of attack from wild elephants, six elephants of KTWR, four tractors and five vehicles were deployed. Counting personnel mostly included staffs from KTWR and elephant shelters, the Nepal Army's Durgadal Gulm battalion, and NTNC technicians and support staff.
Direct count method was used with technical teams deployed on foot keeping a distance of 500 metres, sweeping the core area of the park with GIS, GPS, receiver units, binoculars, walky-talky, android mobile sets and digital cameras. Along with identifying individual sex and age, habitat conditions, the status of domestic livestock populations inside the reserve, semi-wild quadrupeds, invasive plant species and human activity-related facts have also been recorded.
The Wild Water Buffalo (or Arna in Nepali) is listed as a 'protected' species under Nepal's National Park and Wildlife Conservation Act 1973, is categorized as 'endangered' by IUCN, and included under Appendix III of the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora (CITES). The Koshi Tappu Wildlife Reserve is a 175 sq.km protected area located in eastern Tarai along the Koshi River floodplain, and is also the first Ramsar designated wetland site in Nepal. When it was first established in 1976, there were an estimated 63 Wild Water Buffaloes in Koshi Tappu.
The Wild Water Buffalo population of Koshi Tappu Wildlife Reserve was the last remaining population in Nepal until 2017, when 15 individuals were translocated to old Padampur of Chitwan National Park (CNP) to establish a second viable habitat. These translocated Arnas, currently being kept in enclosures, continue to be regularly monitored by CNP and NTNC.
Worldwide, Wild Water Buffaloes are found in Nepal, India, Bhutan, Myanmar, Cambodia and Thailand, with their populations estimated to be about 3400 individuals. About 82 percent of this are found in India's Kaziranga National Park, with Koshi Tappu holding the second largest population of the rare and endangered species.
** See below for Press Release in Nepali **