Report on Faunal Diversity in Chure Region of Nepal
The Chure Region, foothills of the Himalayas, spreads across east-west parallel to the high Mountains covering 12.8 % of Nepal. The Chure Region mostly remained forested till 1950s, but with the human population increment, deforestation in Chure forest is occurring in an unprecedented rate. Majority (76%) of the forest areas of the Chure Region falls outside the protected areas. Chure provides habitat for various rare and globally threatened species. However, knowledge on biodiversity of the Chure Region is still lacking. Realizing this knowledge gap, National Trust for Nature Conservation carried out the faunal diversity assessment in Chure Region under the financial support of President Chure Terai Madhes Conservation Development Board.
The study was carried out in the entire Chure Region by dividing the region into four blocks i) Eastern (East
of Bagmati), ii) Central (Bagmati to Tinau), iii) Western (Tinau to Karnali) and iv) Far-Western (West of
Karnali). The Farwestern block was surveyed in 2016 and other blocks were surveyed in 2017 and 2018.
Grid cells of 10 x 10 km2 were overlaid across the forested areas and further divided into 2.5 x 2.5 km2 subgrids. Single camera trap was deployed for 10 to 15 days within each sub-grid with potential sites for wildlife movement. Wildlife signs were recorded by surveying 2 km long trasects (four segments of 500m) along the forest roads, rivers and animal trails within each sub-grid cells. Birds were also surveyed in same grids/ sub-grids using a mix of both point and transect count method. Similarly, Herpetofauna was surveyed using Visual Encounter Study (VES) (both diurnal and nocturnal). Butterflies were studied using 'Pollard walk' method in possible butterfly habitats during day light hours. Fish survey was carried out independent to other surveys. Fishes in major rivers and streams in Chure were captured by traditional fishing technique and species were identified. Physical characteristics of the fish as well as physio-chemical parameters of the water in the major river systems were recorded. In addition, opportunistic study was carried out using light trap (for moths and other insects), sherman traps (for small mammals), mist net (for bats, pitfall traps (for herpetofauna), mostly near the camp sites. We also recorded incidental observations encountered elsewhere in the area.
Camera trap study was conducted in 1695 grids covering the entire Chure Region with total camera trap effort of 28,051 nights. The study recorded 41 different species of mammals based on camera trap photographs in the Chure Region. Out of 41 mammals, 20 were listed in IUCN redlist of threatened species including one critically endangered, five endangered, nine vulnerable and three near threatened. We detected at least two individuals (a male and a female) tigers in Kapilvastu, Rupandehi and Palpa; in the forests North-west of Butwal city where no tigers were recorded in 2008/09, 2013 and 2018 national tiger and prey base surveys. Similarly, a Sloth bear was photographed from Trijuga forest (North-West of Koshi Tappu Wildlife Reserve) where sloth bear was not recorded before. Based on camera trap records, rhesus monkey was the most widespread species in Chure Region (detection rate (d) 17.39 per 100 trap nights) followed by Indian crested porcupine (d=9.6) large Indian civet (d=8.46), barking deer (d=8.43), golden jackal (7.84), sambar (7.18), spotted deer (7.12), wildboar (6.55), Indian hare (5.76), Tarai gray langur (5.26), Bengal tiger (4.78), leopard cat (4.44), Assamese macaque (3.93) and common leopard (3.11). Among the 27 protected mammal species in Nepal, striped hyaena and leopard cat has a wider distribution in Chure Region. Critically endangered Chinese pangolin were photographed from two locations in Chure (Chitwan and Udaypur). Among the five ‘Endangered’ species, dhole and hog deer were recorded exclusively inside the protected areas and Indian pangolin, tiger and elephant were also recorded outside of protected areas.
For the bird survey, 136 grids and 1,060 sub-grids were covered with 1,557 km transect walk and 4,130
locations of point count (668 hours search effort). The survey resulted 45,113 individual birds of 378 different species (42.78% of the total bird species in Nepal). The recorded species belong to 20 order and 75 families. We also recorded eight globally threatened (one Critically Endangered, two Endangered and five Vulnerable) and 35 Nationally Threatened and Rare bird species during the survey. Other three birds i.e. Spiny babbler (endemic bird of Nepal), Forest wagtail (the second record for Nepal, previously recorded from Annapurna Conservation Area) and Sultan tit (first record outside protected area) were also recorded during the survey.
Similarly, a total of 99 species of herpetofauna (24 species of amphibians and 75 species of reptiles) were recorded including two new species records (a frog and a monitor lizard) for Nepal from the Chure Region.
The water (or Asian) monitor lizard (Varanus salvator) was recorded for the first time in Nepal from
Udayapur district. Similarly, we also recorded a new frog species for Nepal i.e. Cope’s frog or Golden backed frog (Hydrophylax leptoglossa) from Ilam.
Research on butterflies is very scanty, the study has provided valuable baseline data for most of the area. A total of 279 species of butterflies belonging to six families were recorded including 18 new records for Nepal, i.e. Golden Angle (Caprona ransonnetti), Giant Hopper (Apostictopterus fuliginosus), Pygmy Swift (Gegenes pumilio), Moore’s Swift (Pelopidas subochracea), One-spot Grass Yellow (Eurema andersoni), Small Cabbage White (Pieris rapae), Chinese Silverline (Spindasis zhengweilie chayuensis), Tytler’s Dull Oakblue (Arhopala ace arata), Bhutan Oakblue (Arhopala curiosa), Rounded Six-lineblue (Nacaduba berenice), Bhutya Lineblue (Prosotas bhutea), White-tipped Lineblue (Prosotas noreia), White Cerulean (Jamides pura), Silver Forget-me-not Blue (Catochrysops panormus), Small Cupid (Chilades parrhasius), Southern Palmfly (Elymnias caudata), Purple Bushbrown (Mycalesis orseis nautilus), Nigiri Jewel Four-ring (Ypthima striata).
Study of fish resulted 104 species belonging to 7 orders 20 families and 50 genera. Among them, 12 species are threatened four are data deficit (DD) and 8 species are not evaluated in IUCN redlist. The highest diversity of fish species was found in Karnali River followed by Mahakali and Babai Rivers.
The study reported the high biodiversity in Chure Region and its importance for wildlife conservation.
However, human pressure in Chure Region was relatively high. The camera traps captured 58 images of
people with guns in 7 different grids, indicating widespread poaching of wildlife. High grazing pressure
especially in the western and far-western region was documented. Reducing human pressures through
enhanced enforcement, community awareness for wildlife conservation and restoration of critical sites are
necessary to keep the Chure Region intact. Periodic monitoring of biodiversity in the Chure is also required
to detect changes over time and enhance our knowledge about chure biodiversity.