Conservation Initiatives at Priority Sites in the Terai Arc Landscape

Geographical location:

Asia/Pacific > Southern Asia > India

Royal Bardia National Park, Terai Arc Landscape, Nepal
© WWF-Canon/Matt Wilkinson

Summary

The Terai Arc Landscape contains spectacular forests, savannahs and grasslands, providing vital habitat for three endangered large mammals: tiger, elephant and rhinoceros.

This project aims to identify key sites as a focus for conservation within this landscape.

Background

Less than half a century ago, the Terai, a Sanskrit term for lowlands, was a connected network of pristine forests and tall grasslands that supported a spectacular number of Asia's wildlife species, including the tiger, greater one-horned rhinoceros and the Asian elephant. All these species are the flagship species of the landscape.

Successful efforts to control malaria have historically led to a large influx of people to the Terai, drawn by the region's high agricultural productivity and aspirations for better living conditions. The rate of immigration to the Terai has also increased during the last 10 years due to people fleeing from the insurgency torn mountainous districts in Nepal. The resultant large-scale land clearing in Nepal and India for agriculture, human settlements, industry, timber and development projects such as dams, hydro-electric stations and road networks has led to large-scale degradation and fragmentation of these forests.

This landscape also consists of some of the most fertile agricultural lands in India and Nepal. Therefore the area is densely populated, supporting millions of people in both countries dependent on agriculture and natural resources for their livelihoods.
The natural forests of the Terai remain as isolated patches of green strewn across a human-dominated landscape. The three flagship species mentioned above are confined to relatively small patches of habitat where they face an uncertain future because these refuges are too small and inadequate to support the wildlife populations and ecological interactions that maintain them.

The loss of forests directly impacts the livelihoods of local communities, particularly indigenous groups such as the Tharus and Gujjars who are dependent on forest resources. Degradation of key watersheds has also led to soil erosion and low water tables that now threaten the agricultural viability of the Terai and the future livelihoods of millions of people.

Objectives

Ensure habitat integrity and connectivity in the Terai Arc Landscape for the viability of tiger and elephant populations and ensure long-term conservation benefits for local communities.

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