NEPAL

Connecting Nepal’s Rhododendron Forests

Project Cost: $124,693

Funding Raised: $43,280

$814.98 per acre (1 acre = 43,560 sq ft)

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Known as the “Rhododendron Capital of the Himalayas,” Nepal’s Tinjure-Milkhe-Jaljale (TMJ) Forest complex contains 28 out of 32 species of rhododendrons found within the country. Nepal, a least developed country with pervasive rural poverty and unemployment, is currently undergoing rapid development that includes the construction of new road networks and urbanization. In some cases, the cost of this has been the inadvertent destruction of many sensitive habitats, including those found within TMJ forests.

Rainforest Trust and local partner KTK-BELT seek $124,693 to purchase and protect eight parcels for a total of 153 acres to establish a 7,000-acre corridor of protection that will stretch from Chauki to Gufa Pokhari. These strategic land purchases will also connect community areas in the region, and they are the first stage in comprehensive protection for the entire TMJ forest as community protected areas. This will create a core habitat for significant populations of Endangered species endemic to the Himalayas such as the Red Panda, Himalayan Musk Deer and East Himalayan Yew, an Endangered wild plant from which the cancer medication Taxol is derived. Another extremely important point for conservation is that new species are being discovered in the TMJ forest every year.

photo: Landscape view of the TMJ Forest. Photo courtesy of KTK-BELT.

Fast Facts

Location:
Tamur Valley and Watershed, Nepal

Size/Acres:
153

Key Species:
Chinese Pangolin (CR), Spikenard (CR), Red Panda (EN), Alpine Musk Deer (EN), Himalayan Muskdeer (EN), Atis (EN), East Himalayan Yew (EN)

Habitat:
TMJ Forest, “Rhododendron Capital of the Himalayas”

Threats:
Expansion of road networks, haphazard road construction, poaching

Action:
Land Purchase

Local Partner:
KTK-BELT

Financial Need:
$124,693

Price per Acre:
$814.98

Total Carbon Storage (Mt CO2):
13,000

Biodiversity

The TMJ forests fall within the Eastern Himalayas biodiversity hotspot, containing 28 species of rhododendrons.

There are also more than 33 lakes, 13 watersheds, 30 mammals species, 274 birds species and 832 species of flowering plants. Endangered mammals such as Himalayan Musk Deer, Red Panda and Chinese Pangolin call this unique habitat home, as do several globally threatened pheasants. There is a high degree of plant endemism in the TMJ forests, including valued medicinal and aromatic plants (MAPs) such as Panchaule, Kutki, Spikenard, Satuwa, East Himalayan Yew and Atis. The Nepalese government has prioritized the TMJ forests for further plant research because of the multitude of medicinal plant varieties found here. Bistorta diopetes, Bistorta milletioides, Acronema cryptosciadeum and Saxifraga jaljalensis are four endemic plant species recorded in the TMJ forest itself.  

photo: Endangered Red Panda. Photo courtesy of KTK-BELT.
 

Challenges

The most pressing threat to the 143,896.877-acre TMJ rhododendron area is the loss of habitat from a massive proposed infrastructure campaign to upgrade and expand the road network.

The lack of clear boundary declaration and demarcation of government-owned community forests and of the entire TMJ region as a whole has left the region vulnerable to development activities. Haphazard road construction, also referred to as “dozer terror,” has made the area’s forests, wetlands and shrub lands vulnerable to stone and gravel extraction and urbanization. The threats to the Vulnerable Himalayan Black Bear, Endangered Alpine Musk Deer and Endangered Red Panda are most directly traceable to habitat fragmentation from rural road proliferation. Poaching of the Critically Endangered Chinese Pangolin for meat and medicine is another threat, while overgrazing and deforestation jeopardize the threatened medicinal plant species found in the TMJ such as the Endangered East Himalayan Yew and Atis, as well as the Critically Endangered Spikenard. Also, 302 of the 340 plant species confirmed to be within the protected area by the local partner have not been assessed by IUCN, an additional challenge as many of these species are known to be locally threatened but have no global recognition of this fact.  

photo: Road destruction. Photo courtesy of KTK-BELT.
 

Communities

There are 500 households partially or totally dependent on the adjacent six community forests...

The project area, situated in Madi and Chainpur Rural Municipalities of Sankhuwasabha district in eastern Nepal, is part of the highly diverse Tinjure-Milke-Jaljale (TMJ) complex. The area is inhabited by mixed ethnic groups including Limbu, Rai, Tamang, Sherpa, Gurung, Brahmin and Chhetri, who are largely dependent on nearby community forests for firewood and timber. There are 500 households partially or totally dependent on the adjacent six community forests (Jalapadevi, Pathibhara, Siddadeurali, Aahaltar, Gidre and Mahamenchhem), which are endowed with a variety of rhododendron species, as well as mixed upper subtropical and temperate broadleaved forest. Most local people practice grazing or eco-tourism in the region.  

photo: Chauki Learning Grounds Member Uday Kumar Lo. Photo courtesy of KTK-BELT.
 

Solutions

Rainforest Trust seeks $124,693 to assist the local partner in preserving these eight plots and fortifying a 7,000-acre corridor stretching from Chauki to Gufa Pokhari.

By purchasing very strategically located land that directly links the existing forests, grasslands and wetlands, land-grabbing and road construction will be diverted from highly sensitive regions. The 153-acre purchases will also help retain the possibility of creating larger corridors in the future and declaring as protected the entire 143,896.877 acres of forest in the TMJ. It could also enable the possibility of future strategic land purchases. The local partner has requested separate funding from Rainforest Trust to conduct an assessment of these possibilities and is prepared to work with the 500 local families in the region to divert grazing and help regenerate local forests, among other community engagement activities. Upon purchase of the parcels, conservation signage that indicates and explains sensitive habitats and species will be erected throughout the TMJ region. The purchased land, which is largely still intact, will be restored and revived by the partner’s restoration team, with assistance from the government of Nepal. To control grazing but still allow free movement of wildlife, certain areas (about 15-20 percent of the boundary) will be fenced naturally with bushes, trees, bamboo and stone. Two youth patrol guards will be trained and hired by the local partner to regularly patrol the new protected areas. (photo: Secure rhododendrons. Photo courtesy of KTK-BELT.)