Kathmandu, April 1:

A team of Nepali and Japanese scientists, who have been at it for more than a decade, have made a major ecological breakthrough.

It has come across several strange formations in Thimi and Gokarna in the Valley.

Researchers have stumbled upon a footprint of an even-toed ungulate — a mammal that uses its hooves for survival — in Gokarna. Some of the formations conclusively infer to the presence of elephants in the Valley 40,000 years ago.

Dr Hideo Tabata, who is associated with the Gifu Academy of Forest Science and Culture, Japan, is heading the pioneering work. According to him, the latest findings suggest that elephants lived in the Valley eons ago.

However, the scientists maintained that they needed more clinching evidence to substantiate their discovery.

The fossils and molars of animals, including elephants and even-toed ungulates, are imperative to ascertain species. The remains also help reconstruct the flora and fauna in the Valley and the Himalayan region in the pre-historic age.

“The traces are likely to be found at the sand mining site and on the slopes of the hillside. The treasure troves may have been destroyed or are being casually strewn around,” Dr Tabata told The Himalayan Times.

The scientists have urged the locals to keep a strict vigil on the sites once the remains — usually buried in sand and mud — are discovered.

Dr Tetsuya Sakai, who is engaged in study of sediments at Shimane University, Japan, expressed his deep concern about the persistent destruction of “natural heritage in the Valley”.

‘The recent findings have thrown a new light on such historical remains that are being destroyed due to unscientific sand mining and haphazard construction. One needs to know the Valley’s topography well before constructing modern buildings. Else, it will trigger disasters,” he explained.

Professor BN Upreti, a geologist at the Tribhuvan University, agreed with the Japanese observation.

“The rapid urbanisation does not augur well. One needs to be careful. Scientific findings have to be factored in ahead of any construction project,” he explained.

The Nepali-Japanese team has been engaged in the Valley’s geological and ecological

study since 1998.