Nepal lost half of its forest cover to make room for its population that had
doubled between the periods of 1950 to 1980. Today, less than 30% of the total
land is covered by forests. Moreover, the practice of subsistence farming has
put great pressure on the forest lands and wild animals.
Nepal has established 7 National Parks and 3 wildlife reserves for the
protection of the endangered species. There is only one hunting reserve in
Nepal. These parks and reserves fall under the administration of the National
Parks and Wildlife Conservation Department of the Government of Nepal. The
total area covered by these parks and reserves is 11,001 square kilometres
(4,247 square miles). This represents 8% of the total area of Nepal.
Sagarmatha (Mt. Everest) National Park (1148 Sq. Km)
This is the highest national park in the world, with the entire park located
above 3,000 m (9,700 ft). This park includes three peaks higher than 8,000 m,
including Mt Everest.
With its terrain cut by deep rivers and glaciers, this park can be divided into
four climate zones
A forested lower zone
A zone of alpine scrub
The upper alpine zone which includes upper limit of vegetation growth
The Arctic zone where no plants can grow.
In the lower forested zone, birch, juniper, blue pines, firs, bamboo and
Above this zone all vegetation are found to be dwarf or shrubs.
As the altitude increases, plant life is restricted to lichens and mosses.
Plants cease to grow at about 5,750 m (18,690 ft), because this is the permanent
snow line in the Himalayas.
The Sagarmatha National Park is one of the most beautiful places on the Earth,
especially in summer. After the first monsoon rains in June, the hillsides
become green and different varieties of flowers start blooming, and butterflies
of myriad species appear in different colours. About 118 species of birds and
26 species of butterflies have made this park their home.
Some of the endangered animals that are found in this park are musk deer, wild
yak, red panda, snow leopard and Himalayan black bear. Many other animals such
as Himalayan thars, deer, langur monkeys, hares, mountain foxes, martens, and
Himalayan wolves are living here.
The oxygen gets thinner with the altitude. Therefore, the animals here are
adapted to living on less oxygen as well as a cold temperature. They have thick
coats or shortened limbs to prevent loss of body heat. The Himalayan bears go
into hibernation in caves during the winter when there is no food available.
Royal Chitwan National Park (923 Sq. Km)
Elephant rides in the Royal Chitwan Park. Credit: Mahabir PunThis is one of the
most popular national parks in Nepal. The park is situated in the sub-tropical
lowlands of southern Nepal, lying between two mountain ranges, the Shivalik and
the Mahabharat range.
This is the flood plain of three rivers, the Rapti, the Reu and the Narayani.
The forest is dominated by Sal trees (shorea robusta) and tall grasses.
This is the natural habitat of endangered animals like Bengal tigers, one-horned
rhinoceros, gharial crocodile, gaur (the world's largest wild cattle), four
species of deer, leopards, wild dogs, fishing cats, leopard cats, python and
Gangetic dolphin. There are over 50 species of mammals and 450 species of birds
in the park.
Before 1950, this area used to be the hunting reserve for the ruling class of
Nepal. The hereditary prime ministers of the Rana family, who ruled Nepal for
104 years, often used to invite people from England and India as their guests
and huge numbers of tigers and rhinos were killed.
Today the tourists can ride elephants and view the wild animals at close range.
Koshi Tapu Wildlife Reserve (175 sq. Km)
This is a small wildlife reserve (about 175 square kilometers) situated at
Kusaha, 2.5 km from Mahendra. It was established mainly for the protection of
the last surviving wild water buffaloes. The buffaloes are very ferocious and
can weigh over 2,000 pounds (915 kg). Currently their population is about one
hundred only. These bovine possesses the longest horn (about two meters in
length) among any surviving mammals in the world and are aggressive in nature.
It is situated in the flood plains of the Sapta Kosi River that drains water
from the highest peaks of the world. The other wild animals that found in this
reserve are hog deer, spotted deer, wild boar and blue bull.
The water body supports more than 100 species of fish including the human size
catfish known as Gonch, famous sporting fish the Mahasheer and delicious
species the Jalkapoor. The large reptiles inhabiting this reserve includes the
longest snake species of the sub continent the rare Indian Rock Python,
globally threatened fish eating Gharial Crocodile and number of lizards and
This reserve is also known as the best bird sanctuary in Nepal, because more
than 280 species of birds can be observed in this small island in spring. This
number includes some of the migratory birds which stop here on their northward
flights to Tibet. Massive flocks of ducks numbering more than 50,000 chiefly of
Northern Pintails, Mallard and Northern Shoveler is a common sight during fall
and winter. Globally threatened species occurring in this area includes
Black-necked Stork, Greater Adujtant Stork.
Langtang National Park (1710 sq. Km)
Located about 32 km (20 miles) north of Kathmandu, this park consists of the
beautiful Langtang Valley, and several high altitude glacial lakes. One of the
famous lakes is Gosainkunda, which is a sacred lake for Hindu pilgrims. People
from the plains come every year to bathe in this icy cold lake in August. This
park also includes more than 40 villages
Rara National Park (106 sq. Km)
Rara Lake. Credit: Mahabir PunFrom the east, the high pass of Bul-Bhulei (12,000
ft) forms the gateway to the Rara National Park. Rara is one of the favourite
National Parks of Nepal, spread out over 44 square kilometers.
This park is named after a lake called Rara. This is one the biggest lakes in
Nepal, covering an area of about 15 square kilometers at an elevation of 2,990
m ( 9,717 ft). The Rara Lake, formed on a plateau, is surrounded by beautiful
forests of pine and fir forests. Exotic birds and rare wildlife can be seen in
this protected area. This sweet-water lake is said to be 145 meters deep at the
center and has a few streams flowing into it.
The late King Mahendra was very fond of this place and would camp for many days
in the serene and awe-inspiring surroundings of the beautiful lake. He composed
many beautiful poems while camping near this lake.
On all sides, the lake is surrounded by gentle slopes covered with beautiful
pine and fir forests, alpine flowers like potentillas, irises, geraniums,
lilies of the valley, daisies, sweet peas, yellow dwarf chrysanthemums, phlox
The Rara National Park was established to protect the unique beauty of the lake
and to preserve the surrounding ecosystem. The lake is the home of water birds
found in this area. This park has Himalayan bears, Himalayan thar, musk deer
and snow leopards.
Makalu-Barun National Park and Conservation Area (2330 sq.
Makalu Barun looks across the Kangshung Valley towards the Himalayan giants
Makalu and Chomolonzo. Credit: W. SpiegelmanThis national park lies in the
wilderness at the eastern border of Mount Everest National Park and is more
Its altitude ranges from 1,000 m to more than 8,000 m. This park contains four
of the five highest mountains in the world. Most of the northern part of this
park includes dense forests, valleys of the Barun River, great waterfalls and
It contains more than 3,000 flowering plants. Also about 67 species of medicinal
plants and aromatic plants are to be found here. This park is the home of more
than 50 species of animals and 400 species of birds.
Shey Phoksundo National Park (355 sq. Km)
Phoksundo Lake. Credit: Mahabir PunThis is the largest national park in Nepal
and stretches over the Trans Himalayan region. This park represents a whole
range of climates that are found in Nepal. This is the only park in Nepal where
the Tibetan desert type of fauna and flora are found.
The main attractions of this park are the Phoksundo Lake and the Shey Monastery.
Because of its remoteness, very few tourists visit this national park. Suligad
(543 ft, 167 m), the water fall at the highest elevation in the world, comes
from Phoksundo Lake at 11,855 ft (3,647 m).
The wild animals that are found here are Tibetan hare, Himalayan weasels,
Himalayan black and brown bear, blue sheep, wild yak, Tibetan antelope, wild
yak and different varieties of pheasants.
Khaptad National Park (225 sq. Km)
This park is situated in the far western mountains of Nepal. It was established
mainly for religious purposes. A Hindu guru called Khaptad Swami -- also a
naturalist -- has been living in this secluded area for many years. It was
because of his efforts that an area of about 225 square kilometers (89 square
miles) was set aside as a national park. Most of the park has been designated
as a sacred forest.
This park mainly consists of rolling hills covered with pastures and oak and
Parsa Wildlife Reserve (499 sq. Km)
This wildlife reserve is mainly the extension of Royal Chitwan National Park and
was established to protect a herd of about 20 wild elephants. This park also
provides shelter for some of tigers displaced from Chitwan National Park. The
climate, vegetation and wild animals here are similar to those in the adjacent
Royal Sukla Phant Wildlife Reserve (305 sq. Km)
This is another small reserve established to protect endangered swamp deer. It
is situated in the far southwestern corner of Nepal.
It situates in a flood plain -- of the Sarda River. The grassy and swampy land
has provided the perfect habitat for swamp deer. There are some tigers too. The
other animals found in there are antelopes, leopards, wild boars and hares.
Dhorpatan Hunting Reserve (1325 sq. Km)
This is the only hunting reserve in Nepal. It lies in the southern foothills of
the Dhaulagiri range. This reserve has many kinds of wild animal such as the
ghoral Himalayan thar, Himalayan black bear and deer. However, this reserve is
famous for blue sheep, which are highly prized trophy animals. Tourists are
allowed to hunt some specific animals by paying a game fee.
Royal Bardiya National Park (968 sq. Km)
This park is situated in western Nepal to the south of the Shivalik range. The
vegetation and wild life found in this park are similar to those of the Royal
Chitwan National Park. In addition, the wild elephant and swamp deer are also
found here. Rhinos in this area became extinct a long time ago. Therefore, 13
rhinoceros were captured in Chitwan National Park and introduced in this park.
There is a greater chance of viewing tigers.
Annapurna Area Conservation Project (2600 sq. Km)
This project was started by the King Mahendra Trust for Nature Conservation, a
non-governmental organization funded by various trusts from all over the world.
It includes the Annapurna range of the Himalayas with many peaks between
6,000-7000 m. The spectacular beauty of the Himalayan Mountains viewed from
close range is the main attraction of this area. This has made this area the
most favoured tourist destination in Nepal. More than 40,000 tourists hike this
area every year.