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Factors influencing the distribution of the endangered hispid hare in Bardia National Park, Nepal


The hispid hare, an endangered elusive mammal that dwells in the tall grasslands of the Himalayan foothills across in Nepal, India, and Bhutan is facing severe threats from anthropogenic activities and seasonal floods. Previous studies on hispid hare have investigated in Shuklaphanta National Park, only a study has been conducted in Bardia National Park over the past decade. We aim to evaluate current distribution pattern of the hispid hare in the Babai valley in Bardia National Park, identify factors influencing their distribution, and access existing threats. We surveyed 428 transects (50 m × 2 m) across 1048.55 hectares of grasslands in the valley pre-burn and post-burn. The hispid hare exhibited a clumped distribution pattern, with recorded pellets in six grasslands: Kalinara, Guthi, Sano Shree Phanta, Chitaale Phanta, Ratomate, Rhino Release Site, and Mulghat in Bardia National Park. Pellet density was higher in post-burn, indicating a greater population density in summer compared to winter. Our finding revealed a preference grasslands area close to riverbank in pre-burn and short grasslands in post-burn, while the species tended to avoid forests and edge between grasslands and forests. The best-fit model highlighted that grass density, grasslands burn, and annual precipitation significantly influence the distribution of the hispid hare. Major threats identified in the field included grasslands burn, flood, invasive species, vegetation succession, and predators. We recommend that conservation efforts focus on protecting and managing grasslands that provide suitable habitat for the hispid hare.