Tigers, pangolins, rhinos, elephants and Bengal floricans: ZSL in Nepal

Greater one-horned rhinos, Chitwan National Park, Nepal. Image (c) ZSL/NTNC/DNPWC

Nepal is a small country of dramatic contrasts. Its habitats range from sub-tropical wetlands to the world’s highest peak. It is home to roughly 645 greater one-horned rhinos, 235 Bengal tigers, 198 gharials (or long-nosed crocodiles), less than 100 Bengal floricans, about 150 Asian elephants, an unknown (but dwindling) number of Critically Endangered Chinese pangolin, and a startling richness of other species, including 887 different bird species. As well as reaching from the lowland Terai plains, through the Siwalik foothills, and up to the Himalayan mountains, Nepal spans six floristic regions, explaining its exceptional biodiversity.


Why is Nepal's wildlife threatened?

Nepal is rich in biodiversity, but its wildlife faces sustained threats. Nepal is one of the poorest countries in the world, and its human population has doubled since 1980, creating ever-greater demands for agricultural land and natural resources. Habitat loss has led to escalating human-wildlife conflict, as Asian elephants and Bengal tigers – which have naturally extensive ranges – increasingly compete for space with people. Poaching for the lucrative black market in rhino, pangolin and tiger body parts is a constant threat, while hunting for meat threatens ungulates, reducing the availability of prey for carnivores.

These threats have had a serious impact on Nepal’s threatened species, and are exacerbated by high levels of poverty; civil unrest during 1996-2006 that reduced the country’s capacity to protect wildlife and led to significant internal displacement; and limited skills and resources for conservation. There is an urgent need to protect species, understand and mitigate threats, and support the Nepal Government’s commitment towards zero tolerance of poaching and the illegal wildlife trade, and safeguard measures for protected areas.

Chinese pangolin from Nepal
Chinese pangolin. ZSL Nepal


What is ZSL doing to help ?

Protecting habitats and species

ZSL is working with the Nepal Government's main agency for wildlife conservation, Department of National Parks and Wildlife Conservation (DNPWC) and local partners to protect species and habitats. This is helping to ensure that Nepal’s network of protected areas is well-run, with robust monitoring of species and effective anti-poaching patrols. Click to find out more about our work and achievements protecting greater one-horned rhino; restoring populations of vultures that had been decimated by veterinary drugs used for livestock; and connecting habitats for Bengal tigers and Asian elephants that roam across the border into India’s protected areas.

Involving communities

ZSL and our Nepalese partners have been pioneering innovative methods to reach out to local communities and ensure that conservation contributes to the well-being of communities that live alongside wildlife. We are enabling communities to take a lead role in addressing the immediate threats to the critically endangered Chinese pangolin through Community-Managed Pangolin Conservation Areas and Community-based Anti-poaching Patrols. We are also helping minimise conflicts between people and tigers; and directly supporting the livelihoods of marginalised and poor people living in the buffer zones around protected areas.

Community-Based Anti-Poaching Unit on patrol in Nepal
Community-Based Anti-Poaching Unit on patrol in Nepal

Increasing understanding of little-studied species

ZSL helped compile a comprehensive report on the conservation status of the Mammals of Nepal, which lists Nepal’s mammals and evaluates the level of threats that each species faces. It gives details on these threats to the species, conservation measures in place, and recommendations to protect them.

This practical research to guide national conservation issues continued with the publication by ZSL of the National Red List of Nepal's Birds, a full account of the conservation status of all of Nepal's Birds.

ZSL’s EDGE of Existence programme highlights and protects some of the most unique species on the planet, which are on the verge of extinction. These weird and wonderful species are Evolutionarily Distinct and Globally Endangered. EDGE species in India and Nepal include pangolins and gharials.

How you can help

Find out how you can support our conservation work on our Get Involved page.

Project information

Key species

  • Greater one-horned rhino (Rhinoceros unicornis), Vulnerable
  • Bengal tiger (Panthera tigris), Endangered
  • Asian elephant (Elephas maximus), Endangered
  • Chinese pangolin (Manis pentadactyla), Critically Endangered 
  • Gharials (Gavialis gangeticus), Critically Endangered
  • White-rumped vulture (Gyps bengalensis), Critically Endangered
  • Slender-billed vulture (Gyps tenuirostris), Critically Endangered
  • Red-headed vulture (Sarcogyps calvus), Critically Endangered
  • Egyptian vulture (Neophron percnopterus), Endangered
  • Himalayan vulture (Gyps himalayensis), Near-threatened
  • Bengal florican (Houbaropsis bengalensis), Critically Endangered

People involved

  • Dr Hem Sagar Baral - Nepal country manager
  • Dr Bhagawan Raj Dahal – Deputy country manager

Partners and sponsors

  • Department of National Parks and Wildlife Conservation (DNPWC)
  • National Trust for Nature Conservation
  • Himalayan Nature
  • Mithila Wildlfie Trust
  • Kindly funded by: US Fish and Wildlife Service Rhino-Tiger fund; Darwin Initiative (UK); Integrated Tiger Habitat Conservation Programme (IUCN-KfW)

Related projects

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