Besides the tiger, the Divisional Forestry Office’s camera traps also showed the Mahabharat forests are teeming with other wildlife found both in the plains, such as the sambar deer and leopard, as well as ghoral and red fox which prefer the high Himalayan habitat.
“Most wildlife research in Nepal tends to be either in the Tarai or the high Himalaya, and the Mahabharat Range with an elevation between 3,000-4,000m is usually left out, which is all the more reason to study and protect the biodiversity here,” Acharya explained.
The camera traps were placed along the wildlife migratory route in the Bhageswar and Ghanteswar corridor with 32 camera in the first phase and 30 in the second. While most of the images in the first phase were of leopards, it was only later in the season that other animals, as well as the tiger, started appearing.
The slopes of the Mahabharat Range form Nepal’s mid-hill spine from east to west, and is the most-densely populated mountain region in the world. Deforestation had driven out most of the wildlife from here, but with community forestry, the vegetation and animals are staging a comeback. In addition, most mid-hill districts have seen a decline in human population because of out-migration, and a reduced birth rate.
Law makers both in Sudur Paschim Province as well as the Federal Parliament in Kathmandu are studying the National Parks and Wildlife Act of 1973 and the Forestry Act of 2019 to see if it is more feasible to declare the region a national park, or a conservation area.
Acharya says: “Either way, it is important to protect this forest. But which model is more appropriate is a political decision, and that has to be made at the provincial and central level.”