Phulchoki Mountain, the highest peak on the rim of the Kathmandu Valley, lies 16 km southeast of Kathmandu. The mountain mainly comprises limestone and low-grade metamorphic marble. Phulchoki receives high rainfall and supports a luxuriant growth of subtropical broadleaved Schima wallichii and Castanopsis indica forests on the lower slopes, with Quercus lamellosa and Q. lanata mixed with Rhododendron arboreum and small bamboo patches higher up, and Quercus semecarpifolia and a little bamboo at the highest elevations. There is a marble quarry on the lower slopes.
The high total of 288 species has been recorded on Phulchoki (Inskipp 1989a, Inskipp 1993, Lama 1994, 1995, Baral 1995, Giri and Choudhary 1996, Choudhary 1996a, Giri and Choudhary 2000a, 2001a, 2004a, H. S. Baral pers. obs.). Phulchoki is important for the restricted-range species Spiny Babbler and Hoary-throated Barwing. There are large areas of broadleaved temperate forests that are known to support significant populations of characteristic species of the Sino-Himalayan Temperate Forest biome. Although partly degraded, Phulchoki’s broadleaved subtropical moist forests still hold good populations of characteristic species of the Sino-Himalayan Subtropical Forest biome.
Non-bird biodiversity: Phulchoki's forests are internationally renowned for their other wildlife. Martens (1979) stated that 'Numerous animal species, especially insects and Arachnida hitherto unknown to science have been discovered here in recent years'. Phulchoki supports a rich variety of butterflies, including the rare Golden Emperor Dilipa morgiana and Kaiser-I-Hind Teinopalpus imperialis (Limbu and Gurung 1998). Ghimre (1984-1985) advocated their protection for their botanical importance alone. Mainly smaller mammals occur, for example Indian Muntjac Muntiacus muntjak, Yellow-throated Marten Martes flavigula, Orange-bellied Squirrel Dremomys lokriah and the Leopard Panthera pardus, which is rare.
Conservation responses/actions for key biodiversity
The forests on Phulchoki mountain face many threats. Since about 1975 the lower slopes were extensively quarried for marble, endangering the subtropical forests. In 1995 HMG/N gave a large area of these forests into the safekeeping of the nearby villages of the Godavari area. Each village ward has been designated a certain tract of forest to care for and protect. These community forests have become successful and the forest has shown significant regrowth. However, the marble quarry is still being worked over part of the lower slopes, although over a reduced area compared to the 1980s and 1990s. The tract of forest that is protected lies below the halfway point of Phulchoki; the forests on the upper slopes are still being exploited and becoming depleted. Threats include felling of trees for wood and fodder, intentional forest fires in the dry season, charcoal-making and illegal collection of orchids. The present security problems appear to have significantly reduced exploitation of Phulchoki’s forests, however.
The loss of tree cover has resulted in a considerable reduction of water in streams flowing from Phulchoki. The Mahedeva temple and two springs at the mountain's base are revered by Hindus and a festival is held here every 12 years. According to legend, these springs sparkle with sweet water even in the driest years, but in May 1983 they temporarily stopped flowing for the first time ever known (Dixit 1986). Streams running from the mountain are now often silt-laden and plaster the fields with a layer of mud when used for irrigation. One of the main reasons that Phulchoki is so seriously threatened is its close proximity to Kathmandu. A road runs from the mountain's base to its summit, although the top area is controlled by the army and public access is now restricted. The road enables vehicles to easily remove timber and other forest products from the upper slopes (Inskipp and Inskipp 1989). Phulchoki has been the centre for wood collection for several of the Valley’s traditional festivals, for example Rato Machhindranath’s chariot, and several other festivals that require wood.
Previously hunting was a serious wildlife threat, but the current security problems have led to a cessation in hunting. As a result there has been a significant increase in Phulchoki’s resident galliformes: Kalij Pheasant Lophura leucomelanos, Hill Partridge Arborophila torqueola and Rufous-throated Partridge A. rufogularis (C. Inskipp pers. obs.).
Lying only 40 minutes drive from the busy centre of Kathmandu, Phulchoki could, with protection, become a valuable and tranquil retreat for both Nepalis and tourists. The views from the mountain’s upper slopes are unequalled in the Kathmandu valley. Phulchoki could be a useful destination for educational visits for the city's many schools and offer good opportunities for research by students from Tribhuvan University. The mountain would also be an excellent location for a small conservation training and information centre; none exists at present in the Kathmandu Valley (Inskipp and Inskipp 1989). There are plans to make Phulchoki mountain a Conservation Area. Funding is being provided by the European Union as part of the Bagmati Watershed Project. However, to date no positive environmental impacts of this project can be seen.
BirdLife International (2020) Important Bird Areas factsheet: Phulchoki Mountain forests. Downloaded from
http://www.birdlife.org on 29/02/2020.