Though landlocked, Nepal is famous for its natural beauty and cultural diversity. It boasts a unique collection of flora and fauna found nowhere else in the world. The diversity in geography in such a small area supports a variety of ecosystems that hosts a wide range of species, with some unique species and sub-species. These species among the Nepal biodiversity resources can contribute to maintaining ecological balance, richness and diversity for present dwellers and travellers as well as safeguarding the same for future generations.
Here are some unique flora and fauna found almost exclusively among the Nepal biodiversity resources.
1. Himalayan monal
One of the most notable species found in Nepal is the Himalayan monal (Lophophorus impejanus), the national bird of Nepal. With its colourful plumage of blue, green, and red, it is a stunning sight to behold. The Himalayan monal is known for its distinct call and can be spotted in the Himalayan region of Nepal, India, China, southern Tibet, Pakistan and Bhutan. It is a large bird that can grow up to 70 cm in length, with a wingspan of up to 80 cm. It is usually found in the alpine and sub-alpine regions of the Himalayas, at altitudes of between 2,500 and 4,500 meters.
The male monal is more strikingly coloured than the female, with a metallic green head, a bright blue neck, and a red and yellow tail. The female, on the other hand, has a brownish-grey plumage with white spots. Despite their stunning appearance, Himalayan monals found in the Nepal biodiversity are hunted for their meat and feathers, which are used in traditional clothing and decorations. The bird is on the IUCN Red List of Threatened Species since 2016, hence, conservation efforts are being made to protect this beautiful bird and its habitat.
2. Greater one-horned rhino
Another unique species found in Nepal is the one-horned rhinoceros (Rhinoceros unicorns); it is also one of the most celebrated species in the Nepal biodiversity landscape. This megafauna can be found in the Terai region of Nepal, one of the few countries where it can still be found. It is considered an endangered species among the biodiversity resources in Nepal due to habitat loss and poaching. It is also on the IUCN Red List of Threatened Species. It is currently enlisted as vulnerable.
This big mammal can weigh up to 2,000kg and stand up to 6 feet tall at the shoulder. It has thick grey skin that is covered in folds, giving it a rugged appearance. The species gets its name from the single horn on its nose, which can grow up to 25 inches long. Despite being herbivorous, it has a reputation for being aggressive and can charge at speeds of up to 30 miles per hour when threatened.
As per the 2021 national census, there are 752 one-horned rhinoceros in various national parks in Nepal.
3. Red panda
The red panda (Ailurus fulgens) is a small, arboreal mammal found in the Himalayan region of Nepal and parts of China, Bhutan and Myanmar. It is known for its distinctive red and white fur and is classified as endangered due to habitat loss and poaching. The mammal has been listed on the IUCN Red List of Threatened Species since 2015 as endangered.
Red pandas are primarily herbivores, feeding mainly on bamboo shoots and leaves. They also consume fruits, berries, and occasionally small insects and rodents. Despite their name, red pandas are not closely related to giant pandas and belong to their own distinct family called Ailuridae. In addition to their unique appearance, the species among the Nepal biodiversity resources is known for its agile climbing skills, which help them navigate the branches of trees in their forested habitats. Conservation efforts are underway to protect these adorable creatures and their diminishing habitats.
4. Chinese pangolin
The Chinese pangolin (Manis pentadactyla) is a rare and critically endangered mammal found in Nepal. It is covered in scales and is hunted for its meat and scales, which are used in traditional medicine. Conservation efforts have been put in place to protect the pangolins listed as critically endangered on the IUCN Red List of Threatened Species in 2019.
In Nepal, community-based conservation programmes have been established to reduce poaching and promote sustainable use of Nepal biodiversity resources and more on-the-ground projects. Additionally, laws have been enacted to protect these species from illegal hunting and trade. However, more needs to be done to ensure their survival.
5. Spiny babbler
The spiny babbler (Turdoides nipalensis) is a bird species found only in the mid-hills of Nepal. Despite being a relatively common bird in Nepal, the spiny babbler is not well-known outside of the country and has only recently begun to attract attention from birdwatchers and ornithologists around the world. A unique part of the Nepal biodiversity, this bird is known for its distinctive spiky feathers and unique calls.
The social bird lives in small groups and is highly territorial. These birds are often seen hopping along the forest floor searching for insects and small invertebrates to feed on. In addition to their spiky feathers, they are also characterised by their striking black and white plumage. Its unique appearance and vocalisations make it a fascinating subject of study for those interested in avian biology and behaviour.
6. Himalayan tahr
The Himalayan tahr (Hemitragus jemlahicus) is a large, goat-like mammal found in the Himalayas of Nepal and parts of India. It has distinctive curved horns and is hunted for its meat and skin. It is listed on the IUCN Red List of Threatened Species in 2020 as a nearly threatened species.
Meanwhile, the Himalayan tahr has been a popular target for hunters due to its valuable skin and meat. This has led to a decline in their population in the Nepal biodiversity resources and sparked conservation efforts to protect this majestic creature. Efforts are underway to raise awareness about the importance of preserving the natural habitat.
7. Blue poppy
The blue poppy (Meconopsis grandis) is a rare and beautiful flower found in the high altitudes of Nepal, Bhutan, China (Yunnan) and northeast India. It is the national flower of Bhutan but is also found in Nepal. Blue poppies are often referred to as the Queen of the Himalayan Flowers due to their rarity, vibrant blue petals and delicate structure. It thrives in the extreme weather conditions of the Himalayas and is a symbol of resilience and beauty.
In addition to its ornamental value, the blue poppy has medicinal properties and is used in traditional medicine to treat various ailments. Despite its popularity, the blue poppy is facing threats from habitat loss and over-collection, making conservation efforts all the more important in the Nepal biodiversity sector.
8. Himalayan yew
Finally, the Himalayan yew (Taxus wallichiana) is a tree species found only in the high-altitude forests of Nepal and India, between 900 m and 3700 m above sea level. This slow-growing conifer can reach up to 20 metres in height. It is known for its medicinal properties and is used in traditional medicine and is an underrated part of the Nepal biodiversity landscape.
Its bark is reddish-brown and flaky, while its leaves are dark green and needle-like. The tree produces small, fleshy fruit that is eaten by birds and other wildlife. Because of its importance in traditional medicine, the Himalayan yew is also under threat due to over-harvesting for its valuable wood and medicinal compounds.
9. Snow leopard
The snow leopard (Panthera uncia) is a large and elusive predator found in the high mountain ranges of Nepal, and above in parts of China, Russia, Tajikistan, Uzbekistan and Mongolia. These cats are known for their thick, white fur and incredible agility, which allows them to navigate steep and rugged terrain with ease. Unfortunately, snow leopards are threatened by habitat loss, climate change, and poaching, which has led to their classification as an endangered species.
Conservation efforts have been put in place in the Nepal biodiversity sector to protect these beautiful creatures. For example, the government has established protected areas where snow leopards can roam freely without fear of poaching. Additionally, local communities have been involved in conservation programmes that aim to reduce human-wildlife conflict and promote sustainable land use practices.