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Chitwan was set up in 1973 as Nepal's first national park. Chitwan is an inner doon valley in the central terai of Nepal, between the Siwalik hills in the south and the Mahabharat hills to the north. In the east it is bordered by Parsa Wildlife Reserve. There are numerous small patches of grasslands varying in width from a few metres to 1500 m lying alongside the park’s rivers. Approximately 70% of the park is covered by Sal Shorea robusta forest (Laurie 1979); other lowland forest is riverine Acacia catechu/Dalbergia sissoo and a very small area is tropical evergreen forest. In the hills there is Chir Pine Pinus roxburghii and Terminalia-Agoneissus deciduous hill forest. The wetlands comprise the three major rivers of the park, the Narayani, Rapti and Reu, and their floodplains, which include several small lakes and pools and riverine forests (Gurung 1983).
The high total of 540 bird species has been recorded in Chitwan (Baral and Upadhyay 1998, Giri 1998, Giri et al. 1998, Giri and Choudhary 2000a,b,c, 2001, 2002, 2003, Tamang 2002). Species status given here is taken from Baral and Upadhyay (1998). As many as two-thirds of Nepal's globally threatened bird species have been recorded in Chitwan. The site is especially important for several grassland species, including Bengal Florican, Grey-crowned Prinia Prinia cinereocapilla and Slender-billed Babbler Turdoides longirostris, and also for Lesser Adjutant. It is the only Nepalese locality where the Slender-billed Babbler has been recorded and it may support a larger population than any other area in the Indian subcontinent. Chitwan is the only Nepal site where Grey-crowned Prinia is common and it may also hold the largest population in the species’ range (Inskipp and Inskipp 1991, Baral 2002c). The globally threatened Indian Spotted Eagle has bred in the park, one of its few known breeding localities in Nepal. The large proportion of 15 out of 23 of Nepal's near-threatened birds has been found in Chitwan. Well over half of them are wetland birds. Kashmir Flycatcher, a rare passage migrant to Chitwan, is the only restricted-range species recorded in the park and is also globally threatened. The park has large areas of grasslands as well as dry tropical and subtropical forests. These habitats are known to support significant populations of species characteristic of the Indo-Gangetic Plain, Indo-Malayan Tropical Dry Zone and Sino-Himalayan Subtropical Forest biomes respectively.
Non-bird biodiversity: More than 50 species of mammals have been recorded at Chitwan. A large number of globally threatened species occur including; Indian Rhinoceros Rhinoceros unicornis (two thirds of its world population), Gaur Bos frontalis, Asian Elephant Elephas maximus, Nilgai Boselaphus tragocamelus, Serow Capricornis sumatraensis, Tiger Panthera tigris, Asiatic Wild Dog Cuon alpinus, Striped Hyaena Hyaena hyaena, Sloth Bear Melursus ursinus, Chinese Pangolin Manis pentadactyla, Ganges River Dolphin Platanista gangetica, Smooth-coated Otter Lutrogale perspicillata, Gharial Gavialis gangeticus, Mugger Crocodile Crocodylus palustris etc (Laurie 1982, Gurung 1983, Hilton-Taylor 2000).
BirdLife International (2017) Important Bird Areas factsheet: Chitwan National Park. Downloaded from http://www.birdlife.org on 25/11/2017.