Shey-Phoksundo National Park lies in the Dolpo and Mugu districts in north-west Nepal. A buffer zone in Dolpo is planned. The northern boundary, stretching from the mountain pass of Namja in the west to that of Marim in the east, borders on the Tibetan Autonomous Region of China. About one-third of the park is situated south of the Kanjiroba Himal (6883 m), and comprises extensive high altitude grasslands interspersed with forests and scrub below 4,000 m. There are forests of oak Quercus semecarpifolia and conifers Pinus wallichiana, Abies spectabilis and Picea smithiana, and mixed deciduous forests along the Suli Gad river. Betula utilis forest is common in the Jagdula Khola and Garpung Khola valleys. Higher up there are limited shrubberies of rhododendron and juniper Juniperus. North of the Kanjiroba Himal lie the undulating hills of the Tibetan plateau where the vegetation is typically trans-Himalayan, dominated by Caragana, Cotoneaster and dwarf junipers Juniperus spp. (Prieme and Oksnebjerg 1995).
The park was established for its trans-Himalayan habitats and wildlife. It is also important for its populations of Kashmir Nuthatch and White-throated Tit, two restricted-range species from the West Himalayan EBA. The globally threatened Wood Snipe has also been recorded in the breeding season. A total of 178 species has been found (Prieme and Oksnebjerg 1995), but the park is very under-recorded. There are large temperate forest and alpine zone areas that support significant populations of characteristic species of the Sino-Himalayan Temperate Forest and Eurasian High Montane biomes respectively.
Non-bird biodiversity: Several globally threatened mammal species are found here including Asiatic Black Bear Ursus thibetanus, Bharal Pseudois nayaur, Grey Wolf Canis lupus, Himalayan Musk Deer Moschus chrysogaster and Snow Leopard Uncia uncia. The park is especially important for the population of Snow Leopard and its prey species.
Conservation responses/actions for key biodiversity
The forests of the park are exploited far less than many others in Nepal. This is mainly because the park lies in the country's least populated zone. Not surprisingly, forests near villages are affected by firewood collection (Prieme and Oksnebjerg 1995).
The people lack awareness about sustainable natural resource use. Lack of trained manpower has led to poor park management (WWF Nepal Program undated a). Hunting, mostly with traps, is taking place in the northwest of the park. Two types of traps, snares and poisoned bamboo spears are used. The snares are intended for Himalayan Musk Deer Moschus chrysogaster but Himalayan Monal Lophophorus impejanus is also trapped (Jackson 1979). Himlayan Monal, the national bird of Nepal, has been listed as protected under the National Parks and Wildlife Conservation Act-1973. In 1989 the park was opened to tourists for the first time. Trees are very rare in this desert-like area and the regeneration of Caragana/Juniperus scrub is exceedingly slow (Prieme and Oksnebjerg (1995). Only a few foreign visitors have trekked in the area and their impact on the local ecology and culture has not been properly understood. However trans-Himalayan habitats are extremely fragile and vulnerable even to a small number of tourists. Local people have no direct benefit from tourist revenues as yet (WWF Nepal Program undated a).
The WWF Nepal Program is supporting several initiatives in the park. The People and Plants Initiative aims to strengthen the capacity of people involved in the management of plant resources and the proposed buffer zone in Dolpa district. The aims include the conservation of biodiversity and the sustainable use of plant resources in the park. There is an Alternate Energy project that aims to reduce pressure on the existing fragile biomass from the use of fuelwood by promoting alternate and renewable energy sources for local people. Solar energy, hydropower and kerosene are being promoted as alternatives to wood. More efficient ways of using existing energy supplies are also being encouraged, such as the use of backboilers and more efficient stoves. Other WWF Nepal projects include preparing a Tourism Plan for the park and its buffer zone, setting up community nurseries, developing agroforestry, supporting and facilitating education for local communities and training for lodge owners (WWF Nepal Program 2000a,b).
A management plan is currently being prepared by the King Mahendra Trust for Nature Conservation and this NGO may take over management of the national park in the foreseeable future.