Nepal: In The Beginning…

Nepal: In The Beginning…

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.

My first task was to try and establish a comprehensive list of the mammals of Nepal. This was done by consulting several sources of literature and online resources to establish which animals were believed to be currently existing in Nepal including those whose presence are uncertain.

Of all the lists of mammal species for Nepal ours in the longest but undergoes constant change. It would have been good to get a confirmed finalised list of mammals before the information search began but it is a bit of a ‘catch 22’ – by cutting down the species list you reduce your work load, but you cannot cut down the list until you have done some research to establish whether or not the species does currently exist or previously existed in the country. I expect the species list to continue to change until all the preliminary species reports have been completed.

Once you have your species list you can then start the search for species information. This is a huge task of searching for all available material for each species that will help to assess their conservation status and build a complete profile for each species. This process takes a huge amount of time and is very much an ongoing task. From London I had excellent access to online resources and libraries such as the ZSL library and British library, however what I found was although there was general information available for species, very few were specific to Nepal.

Another cause of constant frustration is that many online journals and articles require subscriptions. The best place to get hold of country specific information (in this case anyway) is from within that actual country. Since being in Nepal I have had access to to a wealth of country specific species information. This information is not available online and is more often held within the libraries of the local organisations such as the Government of Nepal Ministry of Forests and Soils, WWF Nepal, IUCN Nepal, NTNC and also from the contacts made in country. Another excellent resource are the local universities. Being here has enabled us to get hold of theses produced by students, which are all country and species specific. It also provides the latest information.

The great thing about this project seems to be that everyone is so willing to help and to share what information they have. When I have been unable to get hold of articles many specialists have not only given me advice but also sent me the articles that they have authored and have also provided further contacts. Their help and knowledge has been and continues to be invaluable. Also it turns out the conservation community is quite small and every one seems to know everyone else which has been great – there’s nothing quite like coming across a query and being able to get hold of the countries leading expert in a phone call.

A major concern with the species information collection and use is consistency. This is an extremely difficult thing to achieve but in the long term is something that I hope National Red Lists will be able to facilitate. With so many studies and so many species it is very rare to find studies that have followed the same methods, standards and consistencies. But one of the outcomes of the Red List should be to facilitate research in the areas where it is most needed and guide those undertaking it to follow repeatable processes.

Another very important task is to familiarise oneself with the assessment process that you will use to assess the species conservation status. For this project we are using the IUCN Categories and Criteria. Before starting any species reports I read and downloaded all the relevant documents and practised my Red Listing using the case studies available online. I am indebted to the Sampled Red List Team at ZSL who were a constant source of training, support and advice. I would advise those undertaking a Red List to make contact with people with previous experience as they have invaluable knowledge and experience that can guide you through and give advice when needed, which they continue to do for me. Contact ZSL on the email address [email protected] if you need help and advice in completing a Red List.