The Red Data Book: counting the red flags to Nepal’s mammals
Nepal’s rapidly increasing human population is putting huge pressure on its natural resources and wildlife. The Nepal National Mammal Red Data Book, completed in 2012, aimed at identifying threats and recommending practical measures for the conservation of Nepal’s mammals.
Habitat loss, degradation, and alteration
Fragmentation of habitats is particularly affecting many wide-ranging species such as the Royal Bengal Tiger, Asian Elephant, and Snow Leopard. The Pygmy Hog is now considered Regionally Extinct mainly due to the indiscriminate burning of grasslands and habitat loss. Similarly, Hispid Hare has experienced dramatic declines and is now considered Endangered.
Alien species: Lowland grasslands in protected areas are suffering from inappropriate management. The spread of invasive plant species is making it extremely difficult for some mammal species to feed.
Deforestation and disturbance: The deforestation and lack of planned regeneration of primary forests are reducing the number of suitable habitats and protected roosting sites available to many bat species, one of the two least known groups in Nepal. The gathering of non-timber forest products by large numbers of people is leading to high levels of disturbance to mammals, especially bats, and other wildlife in high altitude areas.
Chemical poisoning: Diffused pollution from fertilizers has led to over-enrichment in many lowland wetlands. The Critically Endangered Ganges River Dolphin is now restricted to a very few river systems, which are also important habitats for Fishing Cats and otters.
Development projects: Linear structures act as obstacles for the migration of many animals, especially mammals, and also significantly increase mortality while crossing these barriers. Dams can inundate and alter important natural habitats and displace people into new sensitive habitats. The intensification of agriculture in areas such as Terai has led to the loss of uncultivated field corners that often support valuable feeding and breeding sites for small mammals, another least known group in Nepal.
Climate change: As the climate changes, habitats may eventually become no longer suitable for threatened grassland mammals largely confined to the area. Many mammals that depend on moist forests are likely to lose their habitat if the climate becomes drier. High alpine areas are also likely to be significantly affected with resulting consequences to species such as the Snow Leopard and its prey base.
Poaching and persecution
The Greater One-horned Rhino, Royal Bengal Tiger, Alpine Musk Deer, and Indian and Chinese pangolins are some of the species most seriously affected by poaching and illegal trade, even within protected areas.
Methods to discourage wildlife from invading human-occupied areas often include non-discriminative and fatal measures. Lack of awareness, fear, negative attitudes, and association of unhygienic conditions with rodents and small mammals, especially bats, often result in non-species-specific persecution.
The prevalence of tuberculosis in captive populations remains a threat as it could easily pass to wild populations. The rapid decline in vulture populations is leading to a situation where a large number of scavengers congregate to feed on carcasses, increasing the possibilities of rapid disease transmission among themselves and ultimately to wild species such as Dhole, Lynx, and Golden Jackal.
Over 60% of the ungulate species, the main prey base for a number of carnivores, are now considered threatened in Nepal. For large predators such as the Royal Bengal Tiger, prey depletion is considered a major factor in their population decline.
Species with small and fragmented populations such as the Blackbuck and Ganges River Dolphin may suffer from loss of heterozygozity, inbreeding depression, and demographic and environment stochasticity.
► Collaborative management of wetland resources needs to be implemented.
► Regulation of sand and gravel mining of rivers is urgently needed.
► Urgent action is needed to control the spread of invasive alien plant species.
► More conservation awareness programs and integrated law enforcement efforts should be launched in buffer zones of protected areas to reduce poaching and persecution.
► There is an urgent need to build the institutional capacity at the national level to address human-wildlife negative interactions.
► Conservation strategies for threatened groups of mammal species based on appropriate baseline data should be developed and implemented.
► Re-assessments of the status of certain mammal groups need to be carried out every five years.
► A national online species database and mapping system needs to be set up to help in land-use planning and policies.
Amin, R., H. S. Baral, B.R. Lamichhane, L.P. Poudyal, S. Lee, S.R. Jnawali, K.P. Acharya, G.P. Upadhyaya, M.B. Pandey, R. Shrestha, D. Joshi, J. Griffiths, A.P. Khatiwada & N. Subedi (2018). The status of Nepal’s mammals. Journal of Threatened Taxa 10(3): 11361–11378; https://doi.org/10.11609/jott.3718.104.22.16861-11378