The Conservation Warriors' Efforts to Establish Ghoral Community Conservation Area
The Magar communities in these villages of Nawalparasi have been hunting goral for a long time. Himalayan goral is popularly called ghoral in Nepali. It is a goat-antelope with a short tail and backward-pointing horns having a grey color coat with a white bib. The shy natured, goral is found foraging and sheltering in rocky faces of mountains. The goral population is notably declining due to hunting and habitat loss. It is listed as a near threatened species on the IUCN National Red List.
Jhabilal Ranamager, local resident of Dhaubadi VDC says, "When we hunted goral, the studier ones always got away and those that got killed were the pregnant, sick and old goral. What moved us was to find an infant inside the carcass almost all the time. It made us feel guilty and coldblooded." This realization motivated the villagers of Dhaubadi VDC to call for a meeting with the elders. What came out of this meeting was a decision to protect goral and to motivate surrounding VDCs to join their cause. It has been almost five years now since the five VDCs in Nawalparasi came together to form a committee to conserve goral and their habitat. The villagers now want to establish the five VDCs including key goral habitats as a community based-goral conservation area.
Since there has been no thorough study on the goral population in Nepal, the exact population status is hard to determine. However, a population of around 100 goral is estimated to be in the Mahabharat lekh (high land) of Nawalparasi and Palpa districts. A recent study commissioned by the USAID-funded Hariyo Ban Program in the Chitwan Annapurna Landscape identifies this Nawalparasi area and adjoining VDCs in Palpa district as playing a crucial role in maintaining forest connectivity between the Chitwan National Park in lowland Terai and the Annapurna Conservation Area in the hill region in the north. The area is connected to Chitwan National Park through forest corridors from the south (Pithauli forests), in the east through contiguous forest (up to Gaidakot in the east), and in the west (Daunne forest area). This area also has other wildlife such as common leopard, porcupine, rhesus macaque, barking deer, jackal, jungle fowl, and pheasant species. Protecting goral will involve conserving their habitat, and thereby benefitting other animal species as well as maintaining the north-south forest connectivity. Safeguarding the forest connectivity is particularly important in the growing context of increasing temperature and environmental change. Such forest linkages will play a crucial role in long-term biodiversity conservation and building resilience to climate change in Nepal.
Dr. Shant Raj Jnawali, Biodiversity Coordinator of Hariyo Ban Program, WWF Nepal says, "Given the livelihood options in this area, if this is recognized as a community-based goral conservation area then it can be promoted as an eco-tourism site. Chitwan attracts half a million visitors a year; if this area can attract even a small portion of that number it will have a positive impact on local livelihoods. We must welcome the stewardship and ownership that this community is showing for conservation."
USAID funded Hariyo Ban Program through WWF Nepal and National Trust for Nature Conservation has planned to help conserve the goral by establishing baseline information on flora and fauna and socio-economic conditions in this area. Scientific research and monitoring of goral is proposed for the coming year. This information will be used to guide future management and monitoring efforts. Communities are already working to restore degraded habitats and establish alternative livelihood programs to decrease pressure on forest resources through ecotourism (home stays), organic cash crop farming, and improved livestock farming.
By Pallavi Dhakal, Communications Officer, Hariyo Ban Program, WWF Nepal
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Disclaimer: The Hariyo Ban Program is made possible by the generous support of the American people through the United States Agency for International Development (USAID). The contents of this article are the responsibility of WWF and its consortium partners and do not necessarily reflect the views of USAID or the United States Government.