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July 2008

Shuklapantha Wildlife Reserve: Tigers on the decline
Bengal tiger
The tiger population in the Shuklapantha Wildlife Reserve (the third largest habitat of tigers in the world) has declinde due to poaching. Department of National Parks and Wildlife Reserves officials said that recent census conducted in the Shuklapantha Wildlife Reserve showed that there are anywhere between 6 to 14 tigers in the reserve.

Two years ago it was estimated that 10 to 17 tigers were living in the reserve. Conservation officials think that poachers who were active in wildlife reserves in India have entered Nepal.


February 2008

'New type of bird' found in southern Nepal

Nepalese scientists have recorded a new subspecies of bird at Koshi Tappu Wildlife Reserve (KTWR) of east Nepal.

The bird was first recorded by Ornithologist and Chairperson of Nepal Rare Birds Committee (NRBC) Mr Suchit Basnet and Mr Badri Chaudhary on 1 April 2005 at Koshi Tappu. The bird was identified as Rufous-vented Prinia bringing Nepal's total bird list to 862 species. The bird is known as Prinia burnesii to scientific community. The new taxon from Nepal is referred to as Nepal Rufous-vented Prinia Prinia burnesii nipalensis.

Mr Basnet has already found several new birds for the country and he records this "A fascinating experience with great excitement at the time of discovery. This must have been the most exciting bird record reviewed by the Nepal Rare Birds Committee since its establishment in 2001."

A team of experts affiliated with Bird Conservation Nepal (BCN) led by Ornithologist Dr Hem Sagar Baral has further assessed the taxonomic status of the bird and recently declared the bird as hitherto undescribed new subspecies of Rufous-vented Prinia. Finding of the work has now been published in Bird Conservation Nepal's quarterly bulletin Danphe (Vol 16 No 4 December 2007). Other members in the team were Mr Suchit Basnet (Chairman of Nepal Rare Bird Committee), Mr Hathan Chaudhary, Mr Badri Chaudhary, Mr Tika Giri and Mr Som GC all well-known and acknowledged ornithologists in the country. According to the lead author of the scientific paper, Dr Baral, "this subspecies is currently found only in Nepal". He further added, "Discovery of a nex taxon from Koshi Tappu which is one of the most bird watched areas of the country indicates the possibilities of finding more new species from the country. We must put extra resources for understanding birds and their conservation needs in future".

Ornithologists call this as a ground breaking research work and most significant on the taxonomy of Nepal's birds after the discovery of Nepal Wren Babbler Pnoepyga immaculata a new bird described to science nearly 17 years ago.

The other two subspecies of Rufous-vented Prinia, the first one Prinia burnesii burnesii is found in Pakistan in the west along the tributaries of Indus River and adjacent Punjab in India, and the second Prinia burnesii cinerascens is found in Assam in the east along the Bramhaputra river systems and adjoining states of India and Bangladesh. The newly described bird shows somewhat intermediate characters between the two subspecies and appears to form a link between them, is found in the Ganges river systems which is the other major river system in the India subcontinent.

The adult of this new subspecies has overall olive-grey to light brown plumage. The head and nape are greyer compared to the browner back, wings and tail. In most individuals, there is faint whitish supercilium which reaches behind the eye. The head is densely streaked compared to back. On the back, the streakings are bolder compared to the ones in head. The juveniles are similar to adults but slightly less marked on the head and body. Light rufous undertail coverts were visible in one young bird caught. All birds seen and heard were located on grassland patches on small islands of the Koshi River. The grass species in the area included Saccharum spontaneum, S. arundinacea, Typha elephantine, and Phragmites karka. Sparsely dotted young sissoo Dalbergia sissoo trees and xeric bushes Casurina spps. were also present. They were absent in heavily disturbed grasslands adjacent to villages indicating their preference for less disturbed grasslands.

It is a resident breeding species and highly threatened in the country because of habitat loss and degradation. Future surveys might reveal its presence in grasslands in different parts of the country.
Source: Bird Conservation, Nepal, February 2008

More information:
Bird Conservation, Nepal

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