Royal Bardia National Park is situated in southwest Nepal, 396 km west of Kathmandu in the Bardia district of Bheri Zone. Much of the park is in the bhabar zone and consists of a broad alluvial plain that slopes gently away from the foothills of the Himalayan Churia Range in the northeast to India in the southwest. The Babai and Geruwa are two large rivers that flow into the park, the latter being a branch of the Karnali River. About 70% of the park is covered by sal Shorea robusta forest; there are also riverine forests of Khair Acacia catechu and Sissoo Dalbergia sissoo in the lowlands and Terminalia-Anogeissus deciduous forest and Chir Pine Pinus roxburghii forest in the hills. The other main habitats of the park are grassland and savannah.
A total of 426 species of birds has been recorded in the national park including 11 globally threatened species (Tiger Tops in prep.). The park is particularly important for Bengal Florican. Over half of Nepal's near-threatened birds have also been found, including eight wetland species. Bardia has large areas of dry tropical forests and is known to support significant populations of species characteristic of the Indo-Malayan Tropical Dry Zone biome. There are also extensive dry subtropical forests that support significant populations of species characteristic of the dry Sino-Himalayan Subtropical Forest biome.
Non-bird biodiversity: A total of 37 species of mammals has been recorded in the national park (Upreti 1994). Globally threatened species of wildlife include the Ganges River Dolphin Platanista gangetica, Asiatic Wild Dog Cuon alpinus, Smooth-coated Otter Lutrogale perspicillata, Tiger Panthera tigris, Asian Elephant Elephas maximus, Barasingha Cervus duvauceli, Nilgai Boselaphus tragocamelus, Gharial Gavialis gangeticus and Mugger Crocodile Crocodylus palustris (Upreti 1994, Hilton-Taylor 2000). The Indian Rhinoceros Rhinoceros unicornis has been re-introduced from Chitwan and 50 individuals survive here (Shiva Raj Bhatta verbally 2000).
Conservation responses/actions for key biodiversity
This national park is by far the largest wilderness area in lowland Nepal. HMG/N has announced doubling the size of the national park, although this extension area has yet to be gazetted and has not been ornithologically surveyed. The park now has a substantial buffer zone. The east-west highway, the main link road across Nepal's terai runs through the park. Despite any benefits this routing of the east-west highway has brought, the major road must surely threaten the integrity of the park and increase the risk of poaching - a major threat to mammals in the park.
There were no tourists visiting Bardia in 1982, but visitor numbers reached over 6000 by year 2000, although they have declined markedly in the last few years because of the current political situation. The disturbance on grassland phantas resulting from tourism posed serious threats to globally threatened species such as Bengal Florican (Rai 1996, Pete Davidson verbally 1996, Nic Peet verbally 1998) and this could be a significant threat in the future when tourism may well increase again.
Bardia has problems of co-existence with local communities, which are similar to those in other lowland protected areas in Nepal. There are widespread and frequent illegal incursions in search of fodder, fuelwood and other natural products such as plants used for food or medicinal purposes. Conservation awareness amongst local people is low.
Community projects are now helping residents to improve their living standards. The UNDP Participatory Conservation Programme (PCP) is assisting them to develop alternative skills and sources of income. The Programme is also providing water holes and improving grazing areas inside the park so that wild animals are not tempted to raid local peoples' crops. The Bardia Integrated Conservation Project was jointly launched by the WWF Nepal Program and the Department of National Parks and Wildlife Conservation, with funding from the Netherlands Development Agency. This Project, which is being jointly carried out by the King Mahendra Trust for Nature Conservation and other community-based organisations, is supporting community development, forestry, education and women's empowerment, as well as biodiversity conservation and support for anti-poaching units (WWF Nepal Program 2000a). Schemes have been introduced which enable women to become self-sufficient by growing vegetables and producing handicrafts. CARE Nepal has helped a community forest in the Thakurdwara area, near the park's headquarters, provide local people with an alternative source of wood. There is, however, a problem in providing residents with real alternatives to other resources in the park. Some fruits and plants, such as ferns, that grow in the park’s forests and are used as food and medicines are of better quality than those outside (Inskipp and Inskipp 2001b).
The Western Terai - Churia Conservation Program (see Sukla Phanta account), which was initiated in 2000, aims to restore wildlife corridors and so link Bardia with Sukla Phanta, Nepal's other western lowland protected area, and also the adjacent Indian parks (WWF Nepal Program 2000a).
BirdLife International (2020) Important Bird Areas factsheet: Bardia National Park. Downloaded from
http://www.birdlife.org on 24/11/2020.