Elephant Conservation

Assess human-elephant conflict and develop human-elephant coexistence through community awareness in Terai of Nepal

Conservation of elephants in the human-dominated landscape depends on the ability of human communities coexist with elephants. This project aims to create coexistence by reducing human casualty. Human casualty is the extreme form of conflict which needs to be avoided to get people’s support for conservation. Awareness about elephant behaviour and responsible actions of people towards elephants can greatly reduce such casualty.

In Nepal, wild Elephants are confined in narrow strip of highly fragmented Siwalik/Terai forests in four subpopulations. Human density is relatively high in this region. During Aug 2017 to Mar

2019, 25 people died in Nepal on elephant attacks. In past 15 years, >9 elephants were also killed by local people in retaliation. Attacks on humans are more in the forest fringes where marginalized communities live who have low awareness level. Most of the attacks can be avoided if locals are aware of elephant behavior and act responsibly. Studies (Pant etal. 2015; Achrya etal. 2016) and Elephant Conservation Action Plan for Nepal (2009-18) have highlighted the importance of awareness programs (DNPWC, 2008). In Central and western Nepal, with increasing awareness programs and mitigation measures (electric fences, alternative crops etc.), the casualty has reduced. We had conducted a series of human-elephant coexistence awareness programs. After such programs, human death/injury on elephant attacks has reduced.

Human-elephant conflict (HEC) especially, elephant attacks on humans has become one of the

major challenges for elephant conservation. In most of the cases, elephant attacks people (67%

of that ends with death of the victim, Acharya et al. 2016) when they try to chase elephants

feeding on their crops or raiding their stored grain. People sometimes approach too close to such elephants or provoke elephants to become angry. Such elephants attack humans causing injury or death. The project aims to reduce such human casualties from elephants to minimum through awareness programs in targeted areas and communities. Through this project, we want to enhance the capacity of local communities to manage conflict and ensure the human-elephant coexistence in Terai of Nepal. Hence, the project contributes to create coexistence between humans and elephants to ensure the long-term survival of elephants in the highly fragmented and human-dominated landscapes in Nepal.

Project Key Activities

  1. Develop HECx training manual and toolkit
  2. TOT (Training of Trainers) on human-elephant coexistence (HECx)
  3. HECx training for locals
  4. Assess the nature and extent of the elephant damage
  5. Radio program: Radio Jingle produced in different local languages Maithli, Bhojpuri & Nepali.
  6. Brochure and poster publication

For more detail, visit

Fishing cat conservation and research

Protecting fishing cats and their natural habitats, within their geographical range in Nepal

Fishing cat, Prionailurus viverrinus, is classified as Vulnerable under the IUCN Red List of Threatened Species and Endangered in Nepal (Mukherjee et al, 2016).

The fishing cat is a highly elusive wild cat species found primarily in wetland ecosystems. Unlike most felines, fishing cats love water and are known for their expert hunting skills in aquatic habitats.

Nepal has exceptionally high diversity of wild cats with 12 species (nearly 30% of the world, 40 species) including three big cats (Royal Bengal Tiger, Common Leopard and Snow Leopard) and nine small cats (Clouded Leopard, Eurasian Lynx, Asiatic Golden Cat, Fishing Cat, Jungle Cat, Pallas’s Cat, Leopard Cat, Marbled Cat and Rusty Spotted Cat). Cats occupy wide range of habitats in the elevation of between 65 m to 6000 m above sea level. Among these, five species of wild cats (Royal Bengal Tiger, Snow Leopard, Clouded Leopard, Lynx and Leopard Cat) are included in the protected species list (Appendix 1) under National Park and Wildlife Conservation Act 1973.

Cats are specialized carnivores, primarily depending on other animals as their diet. All cats are mysterious, elegant adorable and unique. Despite variety of small cat species and their important role in ecosystem functioning as meso-carnivores, there is a general belief that conservation action carried out for the large and wide ranging big cats will directly support the small cats and their prey base. With such belief the small cats have received little attention for conservation. However, big cats are able to prey on what they like (large to small) but small cats have to choose their prey relatives to their body size only. It is clearly understood from conservation programs and funding allocation that small cat are under less importance from both the conservation organizations and the government. In this situation small cats are under the shadow of big cats. Habitat specialist species fishing cat is one of the typical example of small cats demonstrating that conservation of big cats only does not contribute conservation of their smaller cousins.

In Nepal, there were lots of conservation initiatives in the past and present for the large charismatic’s cats especially to tigers and snow leopards. Fishing cat, can be called a wetland cat based on their dependence on wetlands (fish) for their diet. Similar to tiger, fishing cat is also ‘Endangered’ in Nepal based on the IUCN national redlist (Jnawali 2011). It is a small/medium body sized cat (body weight 4.5 – 16 kg) found distributed in some countries of South and Southeast Asia. Its patchy distribution throughout its range is believed for its strong association with wetlands. It is generalist in diet, consuming small mammals, reptiles, crustaceans, fish, birds, invertebrates, etc.

In Nepal fishing cats are distributed in the lowland of Terai. It was recorded from Sunsari in the East to Kanchanpur district in the far West. The distribution is not continuous within its range. Till now fishing cats were recorded from five protected areas of Terai namely Koshi Tappu Wildlife Reserve (KTWR), Parsa National Park, Chitwan National Park (CNP), Bardia National Park and Shuklaphanta National Park from East to West.  Also it was recorded from outside the protected area in natural wetlands as well as fish ponds of Sunsari, Bara and Kapilvastu district. Fishing cat prefers ponds, lakes and marshes but also found around flowing water (rivers and streams) like the Babai, the Trijuga and the Koshi river.

The first ecological study of fishing cats was carried out in CNP in the late 1980s by the team National Trust for Nature Conservation (NTNC) and an American scientist (David Smith). During that period radio collar was put on the neck of fishing cats (3 females and 1 male) and tracked regularly via receiver to understand the ecology and behavior of cats. It showed that fishing cats used the habitat covering dense grasslands vicinity to wetlands. Furthermore they also came up with the idea that the home range of a male fishing cat (16–22km2) overlapping with the home range of three female fishing cats (4–6 km2) (Sunquist & Sunquist, 2002).

The guesstimated fishing cat population in Nepal is 150–200 individuals (Jnawali 2011) which is less than the recent population of 235 tigers (DNPWC & DFSC, 2018) in Nepal. The ignorance of small cats is such that their population is not based on actual research but only expert guess.  A systematic camera trapping survey carried out in CNP in 2012 shows a minimum of five individuals of fishing cats in Chitwan NP (Mishra, 2013). Similarly, camera trapping survey in Koshi (2016 and 2017) found only 20 individuals of fishing cats (Mishra, 2021). This is much less than the previously expected. Except this, Nepal lacks the information about the status on population of fishing cats. But it is well understood that the fishing cat is a very rare species in Nepal. Realizing its critical status, the updated management plan of KTWR included it as a priority species for conservation together with other six species (Wild Water Buffaloes, Dolphin, Fishing Cat, Bengal Florican, Swamp Francolin, Turtle Species and Gharial Crocodile) in Koshi. Similar to Koshi, it should be taken as a priority species throughout its range.

Nepal is rich in water resources, with lots of wetlands in the form of rivers, ponds, lakes and agricultural lands including paddy farms and aquaculture. These wetlands area extends temporarily in the monsoon period where there is heavy rain fall. All the protected areas in the Terai including its buffer zone provides the suitable habitat for the movement of fishing cats towards the human dominated areas.

The survival of fishing cat directly depends on protection of the remaining wetlands in its range. A study of fishing cat has shown that by regulating the killing activities by locals and certain the protection of resources to fishing cats like food and resting sites will ensure the persistence of fishing cats in human dominated areas (Cutter 2015). So in this scenario it is urgent to focus in the threat mitigation of endangered fishing cats for its long existence in the country. Habitat loss and fragmentation, conflict with humans over aquaculture, poultry and livestock are causing fishing cat populations to decline. There are reports of fishing cat death in Nepal caused by domestic guard dogs, snaring and poisoning by local people, killed for bushmeat by tribal communities and road kills.

Our project objective is to protect the fishing cat and its habitat. With this several species of flora and fauna are also protected. We work to understand the threats of fishing cat and reducing it.

Key Activities:

1.     Research

2.     Education and community involvement

3.     Habitat protection

Follow more on the Terai Fishing Cat Project, Nepal page