27th January 2017
A new assessment of the country’s bird life finds a fifth of species are under threat.
Conservationists from ZSL are calling for greater efforts to protect Nepal’s native birds, as the first comprehensive assessment of the status of the country’s avian species reveals that nearly a fifth are threatened with extinction.
Nepal’s National Red List of Birds, the topic of a report published in the Journal of Threatened Taxa, was compiled over five years by a team from ZSL and led by independent bird expert Carol Inskipp, alongside Nepal’s National Trust for Nature Conservation (NTNC); the Department of National Parks and Wildlife Conservation and with the help of Himalayan Nature. The first complete assessment of Nepal’s bird species made using the criteria of the International Union for the Conservation of Nature (IUCN), the report also reveals that only nine avian species – representing just one per cent of the country’s rich bird life – are currently on the list of strictly protected birds.
From the soaring peaks of the Himalayas in the north of the country, to the lowland grasslands in the south, the team combined official surveys with historical observations, to assess the conservation status of all 878 bird species native to Nepal. Alongside an IUCN classification of each species (using the Red List categories of ‘Least Concern’, ‘Near-threatened’, ‘Vulnerable’, ‘Endangered’ and ‘Critically Endangered’), the report identifies the key threats to bird life alongside recommended conservation action.
Habitat loss, degradation and fragmentation top the list as the most urgent threats, driven by the country’s rapid population increase as human settlements, agriculture and industry increasingly encroach into the birds’ natural habitats.
Species of particular concern include those native to lowland grassland habitats, such as the Bengal florican (Houbaropsis bengalensis), which face increasing threats due to the conversion of habitat into farmland, with associated issues including use of pesticides. Many of these grassland birds are now entirely restricted to Nepal’s protected areas.