Makalu Barun National Park lies in east Nepal bordering with Sagarmatha National Park in the west and the Arun river in the east. The core area covers 150,000ha and is surrounded by 83,000ha of buffer zone. The fifth highest mountain peak in the world, Makalu (8463 m) and the wild and comparatively uninhabited Barun valley lie in the park. Several large tributaries of the Arun River form important watersheds in the park.
A wide range of vegetation is represented here in undisturbed form; even some of the steepest slopes of the mountain are vegetated. Sal forests reach their northern limit in Nepal along the banks of the Arun below 1000 m. Other forest types comprise subtropical broadleaved Castanopsis tribuloides, C. indica, C. hystrix, Schima wallichii, Alnus nepalensis; temperate Quercus lamellosa, Q. lineata, Acer campbellii, Magnolia campbellii and subalpine Abies spectabilis, Betula utilis, and shrubberies of Rhododendron spp. Vegetation in the alpine zone consists of herbs, grasses and shrubs of Rhododendron spp. (Shrestha 1989).
A total of 348 bird species has been recorded from the park and buffer zone (Cox 1999). The park is especially important for the globally threatened Wood Snipe which breeds, and the near-threatened Satyr Tragopan and Yellow-rumped Honeyguide which are resident and probably breed. It is also of special importance for the high number of seven restricted-range species from the Central and Eastern Himalayas EBAs that are probably resident: Yellow-vented Warbler, Broad-billed Warbler, Nepal Wren Babbler, Rufous-throated Wren Babbler, Spiny Babbler, Hoary-throated Barwing and White-naped Yuhina. There are large subtropical and temperate forest and alpine zone areas. These support significant populations of characteristic species of the Sino-Himalayan Subtropical Forest, Sino-Himalayan Temperate Forest and Eurasian High Montane biomes respectively.
Non-bird biodiversity: Globally threatened mammals reported to occur include the Asiatic Black Bear Ursus thibetanus, Himalayan Musk Deer Moschus chrysogaster and Red Panda Ailurus fulgens.
Conservation responses/actions for key biodiversity
The present Buffer Zone was formerly a Conservation Area and this change in status is expected to further degrade the fringes of the national park. This is mainly because there is insufficient monitoring of the habitat within the buffer zone. Slash-and burn agriculture is a serious conservation issue in the park and is leading to depletion of biodiversity and destabilisation of slopes. Forest degradation resulting from exploitation to meet the needs of local communities and overgrazing of grasslands are other threats (Shrestha 1989). Cox (1999) also highlighted the degradation of forests caused by the impact of an increasing influx of trekkers at that time and found evidence of hunting for game birds. He described widespread and over-collection of honey from Giant Rock Bee Apis dorsata nests in the Kasuwa watershed resulting in the decrease of local bee populations in the past 10-20 years. This is likely to have had a damaging impact on Yellow-rumped Honeyguide populations in the park.