Nepal: Christmas in Chitwan

Nepal: Christmas in Chitwan

Working on the National Red List of Nepal has not only given me a great opportunity to meet some brilliant researchers and field technicians, but also to truly experience Nepal and its culture. I am lucky that many of my colleagues and people I have met along the way I now consider to be good friends and for this reason (as well as for work related ones), I headed back to Chitwan National Park for the Christmas period. Whilst there the NTNC staff made me feel like it was a second home and also provided me with vital information and resources: their information helped to give species a preliminary conservation assessment where before many were considered ‘Data Deficient’.

I was also able to join the field staff in the jungle almost everyday, including a trip to set up observation posts for an ongoing study observing how species (especially herbivores) are using Mikania-infested habitats. I also got the opportunity to visit some of the other conservation projects such as the gharial and vulture breeding centres and meet up with the tiger monitoring team.

As for my Christmas, it is certainly one I wont easily forget! On Christmas Eve I went on a tiger patrol and after spending the night in the heart of the jungle, I woke up on Christmas day to a sloth bear pottering around the NTNC Head Quarters in Kossoura. For those who have read or seen the jungle book this is what Chitwan is like, it is such a magical place.

Boxing Day marked the opening ceremony for the 2009 Elephant Race. The whole town gets involved and starts with a huge procession of the different ethnic groups: the Tharu, Newari and Gurung to name but a few, all in traditional dress, singing and dancing! At the back of this long procession are the elephants. The procession ends with a large performance in a large open field where the racecourse is set up. And then of course there is the elephant race. I have never seen anything like it. The whole festival goes on for 3 days.

Although most don’t celebrate Christmas in the strictest sense, it is still a time of friends and family coming together and during this time I was able to meet with some great conservationists and key people in Chitwan, including the Chief Warden of Chitwan National Park, the Colonel of the Army, WWF Terai Arc Landscape Research Officer and several DNPWC staff, including the current Director General. So although it may sound like I was not particularly hard at work this was an excellent opportunity for talking about the project, and gaining their vital insights, experiences and knowledge.

Sam Lee is a Project Assistant on Nepal’s National Biodiversity Databank and Red List of Mammals. She will be blogging regularly on the process, providing insights into the details of producing a National Red List