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Tree Guardians of Chitwan, Nepal.

Chitwan is a Jewel of Nepal. UNESCO has designated this site as having Outstanding Universal Value. With its spectacular landscape, covered with lush vegetation and the Himalayas as the backdrop it is an area of outstanding natural beauty.

The Tree Community

The Chitwan valley is characterised by tropical and subtropical forests. Roughly 70 percent of park vegetative cover is Sal (Shorea Robusta) forest, a moist deciduous vegetation type of the terai region. The remaining vegetation types include grassland, riverine forest and Sal with Chir pine Pinus Roxburghii. The later occurs at the top of the Churia range. The riverine forests consist of Khair (Acacia catechu), Sissoo (Dalbergia Sisoo) and Simal (Bombax ceiba). While the monsoon rains bring lush vegetation, most trees flower in late winter. The silk cotton tree has spectacular crimson flowers and can be spotted from quite a distance. The Palash tree pictured below is known as the "flame of the forest".

The Animal Communities

Chitwan is home to the Great One-horned Rhinoceros and it is the second largest community of its kind in the world. The endangered Bengal Tiger community also has a foothold here. The park is the first site to be accredited as a Conservation Assured Tiger Standards (CA|TS) site. Other species include elephants, bears, and mongooses. The smallest terrestrial mammal in the world, the pygmy shrew, can also be found in Chitwan National Park.

Rhinoceros Chitwan Park
Rhinoceros in Chitwan National Park. Simon Steinberger

Of all the species recorded in Nepal the culturally diverse park in the foothills of the Himalayas provides habitat for 31% of mammals, 61% of birds, 34% of amphibians and reptiles, and 65% of fish species found in the country as a whole. A total of 68 species of mammals, 544 species of birds, 56 species of herpetofauna and 126 species of fish have been recorded in the park.

Chitwan Deer Nepal
Chitwan Deer. Roshan Rajopadhyaya

This includes 22 globally threatened species including critically endangered Bengal Florican, Slender-billed Vulture, White-rumped Vulture and Red-headed Vulture. Between September and November, and February and April, migratory birds join the residential birds and create spectacular bird watching opportunities.

wild duck at Chitwan Nepal
Wildfowl at Chitwan by Roshan Rajopadhyaya

The Grasses

The grasslands are mainly located in the floodplains of the rivers and form a diverse and complex community with over 50 different types of grasses. This includes the elephant grass (Saccharum Spp). It is renowned for its immense height as it can grow up to 8 meters high. In late January, local villagers are allowed to cut thatch grasses to meet their needs. This offers a better view of wildlife to visitors at the park.

Breaking up tall grass stands into patches work of tall grassland and short grassland is crucial for wildlife conservation. It also helps to remove invasive species too. This is a wonderful example of humans living and working sustainably in a way that is very beneficial to the local ecosystem.

The Waters

Three major rivers Narayani, Rapti and Reu, and their floodplains; and several lakes and pools are the major water sources of the park. The Narayani (Gandaki) river, the third-largest river in Nepal, originates in the high Himalayas and drains into the Bay of Bengal runs through Chitwan. There are also a number of lakes and wetland areas.

Crocodile Chitwan Park Nepal
A member of the Crocodile Community at Chitwan. Simon Steinberger

The Climate

The park has a range of climatic seasons. October through February has an average temperature of 25C. From March to June temperatures can reach as high as 43C. The hot humid days give way to the monsoon season that typically lasts from late June until September when rivers become flooded and means that most of the roads are virtually impassable. the mean annual rainfall of the park has been recorded 2150mm.

Dug out canoe Chitwan Nepal
Traditional Dug Out Canoe on the River at Chitwan. Bernhard morell

The Struggles of People and Trees

The tree planting and protection management program AST supports works with some of the poorest most marginalised groups in the country. These groups often in remote hard to reach areas supplied by dirt tracks. The people in these remote areas have to travel for several miles in order to collect enough wood for their families use for one week. It is a task generally reserved women and children using machetes, axes and other tools for wood cutting then carrying loads of wood on their heads and backs.

Women carrying wood in Nepal
Women Wood Carriers in Nepal by Simon Steinberger

Nepal was once mostly covered with lush jungle yet this has been seriously depleted. The Nepali people love their forests and their environment and are looking for ways to bring back what they have lost. The removal of reliance on fuel wood is paramount for them. Chitwan National Park is the last major surviving example of the natural ecosystems of the Terai.

The Buffer Zone

A buffer zone has been created around the Park that is not part of the inscribed World Heritage Site but provides additional protection and important habitats. In 2003, Beeshazar and associated lakes within this buffer zone were designated as a wetland of international importance under the Ramsar Convention. This buffer zone is vital to protecting the park and encouraging healthy human interactions with their fellow communities of other animal species. Tree planting is a very important part of this helping to create vital habitats and creating a circle of safety around the park.

In planting and protecting trees in this buffer zone we protect all of the other members of Mother Natures' community. This is why trees are the guardians of Chitwan.

Ancient and Sacred Trees is proud to support the Tree Guardians of Chitwan

The tree planting project support by AST is taking place in this buffer zone. The project is working in partnership with the government protecting this safe haven for the Great One-horned Rhinoceros, the Tharu people, the Bengal Tiger and other species' communities. The buffer zone is also a place for education for Nepalis helping them conserve, protect and manage the land better for the benefit of all creating a living partnership between land and people to thrive.

It is in developing our connections with the land we live with, that we find the solutions to our problems.

As Bishwa Nath Oli, Secretary of the Ministry of Forests and Environment states:

“Chitwan National Park has become a unique identity for Nepal; protecting this World Heritage Site is our collective responsibility.”

With Ancient and Sacred Trees our Green and Growing CommuniTree is empowered to be able to support the tree guardians of Chitwan. In doing so we help to preserve communities of forests, rhinoceros, humans, and other animals. The ecology and culture of this area is priceless.

Amanda Claire

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