Kathmandu, December 26
The government has changed the status of Shuklaphanta Wildlife Reserve into Shuklaphanta National Park 42 years after its establishment.
Shukla Phanta Wildlife Reserve was established as a hunting reserve in 1969. The area was then gazetted as a wildlife reserve in 1976, covering an area of 305 square km, developed as the prime habitat of swamp deer.
The Department of National Parks and Wildlife Conservation said the government changed its status in response to the demand of local people and to attract more tourists.
Deputy Director General at the department Gopal Prasad Bhattarai said the government decided to change the reserve’s status to turn the region into a tourist attraction and facilitate locals’ conservation activities.
“The department sent a proposal through the Ministry of Forest and Soil Conservation to the cabinet to change the wildlife reserve’s status, and the proposal has now been passed,” Bhattarai told The Himalayan Times, adding, “The change allows tourism to flourish in the region.” He said that locals will share the benefits of changing the status of the reserve to a national park.
Although tourism activities and other businesses are not allowed in wildlife reserves, the government and locals had both been conducting tourism activities in Shuklaphanta Wildlife Reserve. The reserve has recently attracted more Indian tourists.
The DNPWC said that the reserve’s objective to protect swamp deer has been met, as the population of swamp deer in the region is large, and many have been shifted to other protected areas.
Shuklaphanta National Park lies in the extreme south-western section of Tarai in Kanchanpur District.
The park shares a common boundary with the Indian state of Uttar Pradesh in the south and west which is formed by the Mahakali (Sarda) river, a major tributary of the Ganges.
It is bordered on the eastern side by the Chaudhar River and to the north by a forest belt and cultivations. A total of 24 mammal species, 350 species of birds including 180 breeding species, 14 species of fish, 10 species of ectoparasites and biting flies inhabit the park.
Although the area of the park is small, it supports a wide range of biodiversity of national and global importance.
Vegetation types primarily include sal forest and sal savanna, which is part of the continuum between climax forest and grassland. The park supports the largest population of Bengal florican Houbaropsis bengalensis.
With this change, there are now eleven national parks, two wildlife reserves, six conservation areas, and one hunting reserve in Nepal.
A version of this article appears in print on December 27, 2016 of The Himalayan Times.