Conservation of Nepal’s endemic bird species: participatory conservation in Phulchoki forest
The Phulchowki mountain forests of Nepal support a rich endemic bird community and nearly 300 avian species. Lying close to the capital of Kathmandu with over 2 million people, the mid-hill forests are well known to foreign birdwatchers but their value is little understood or appreciated by locals. Despite enjoying international recognition, the forests face deforestation for fodder and firewood to supply the needs of an ever expanding human population.
Dr Hem Sagar Baral, Director of Bird Conservation Nepal (BCN), has studied the Phulchowki forests for over a decade, and is working with leading conservation NGOs to engage local people. By involving the community in the monitoring of forest biodiversity and involving them in conservation activities, Hem is teaching the community about the forest’s biological importance whilst also demonstrating how it can provide sustainable incomes through recreational ecotourism. As a result, the local community is showing new interest in the management of their natural resources through which they have the opportunity to alleviate poverty and develop income generating activities that will not further destroy the forests.
Utilising funds from the Whitley Award, Hem’s project is generating much excitement for improved bird conservation in Kathmandu Valley and is building on BCN’s position as the foremost authority on Nepalese birds and biodiversity. By bringing bird enthusiasts together, both local and international, momentum is building for the establishment of a small conservation training and information centre that will help improve use of the forest as an educational resource for local people.
Hem has long understood the forest’s unique potential for education and income generation. He hopes that by promoting Phulchoki as a site for educating the children of Katmandu and by helping locals see the value of the habitats being lost, a better future for both the mid-hill forests and Kathmandu’s human population will be secured.
Hem has collaborated on and written a number of books including field guides about the birds of Nepal and conservation topics such as ‘Important Bird Areas in Nepal: Key Sites for Conservation‘.
In 2016, Hem had the opportunity to meet with Prince Harry on his visit to Nepal where they were able to discuss a number of conservation issues related to the area. Read about the visit here.