In April 2012, I’m off to the Sal forests in the Bardia region of Nepal. I will be travelling with Colonel John Blashford-Snell (JBS) and a group of 17 other scientists and explorers in search of Nepal’s wild elephant population.
Royal Bardia National Park
Covering an area of just under 1000 km2 Nepal’s Bardiya National Park is a protected area. Adjoining the eastern bank of the Karnali River in the Bardiya District, it is the largest and most undisturbed wilderness area in Nepal’s Terai.
According to an extract in Wikipedia’s Bardiya National Park entry, based on Majupuria, T.C. and Kumar, R’s Wildlife, National Parks and Reserves of Nepal., S. Devi, Saharanpur and Tecpress Books, Bangkok (1998);
“The northern limits of the protected area are demarcated by the crest of the Siwalik Hills. The Nepalgunj-Surkhet highway partly forms the southern boundary, but seriously disrupts the protected area. Natural boundaries to human settlements are formed in the west by the Geruwa, a branch of the Karnali River, and in the southeast by the Babai River.”
Flora & Fauna
Thought to home more than 800 species of flora, the park is famed for its wildlife. According to Lonely Planet:
There are estimated to be around 22 royal Bengal tigers and 100 one-horned rhinos at Bardia but these animals are elusive and sightings are rare. Other mammals in the park include grey langurs, rhesus macaques, leopards, civets, hyenas, sloth bears and barking, spotted, sambar and hog deer. Bardia also has more than 250 species of birds, including the endangered Bengal florican and sarus crane. Gharial and marsh mugger crocodiles and Gangetic dolphins are occasionally spotted on rafting and canoe trips along the Geruwa River.
And of course elephants! In the summer of 1997, the wild elephant population count revealed 41 residence. I hope our 2012 expedition can confirm this count to be on the increase!
Set aside in 1969 as a Royal Hunting Reserve, the park was proclaimed as Royal Bardia Wildlife Reserve and extended to include the Babai River Valley in 1984. It wasn’t until 1988 that the area was gazetted as a national park.
Sadly, since the Nepali Civil War between government forces and Maoist rebels in Nepal which lasted from 1996 until 2006, Maoist rebels remain active on the fringes of the park. As a result visitor numbers have plummeted.