Chitwan National Park to expand the habitat of wild water buffaloesThe park has allocated Rs10 million for expansion and upgradation of the Arna habitat.
Chitwan National Park has rolled out a plan to expand the habitat coverage of wild water buffaloes, locally known as Arna.
The protected area, which has been hosting wild buffaloes brought from the Koshi Tappu Wildlife Reserve, has allocated Rs10 million for the expansion and management of the habitat of wild buffaloes.
According to Gopal Ghimire, a spokesperson for the Chitwan National Park, the protected area administration will add an additional 15-20 hectares to the existing habitat of wild buffaloes.
“We have realised that the current habitat is not large enough for Arnas in the park. They need a larger territory,” Ghimire told the Post. “Therefore, we have decided to expand it by up to 20 hectares.”
Wild water buffaloes are currently living around the Old Padampur area. These buffaloes are living inside an enclosure built inside the core area of the sanctuary, which is mostly known for other wild animals like Royal Bengal Tiger, one-horned rhino and elephants.
Arnas are not native to Chitwan. They were brought to the park from Koshi Tappu in 2015.
The Department of National Parks and Wildlife Conservation, a government body that manages protected areas and wildlife, had translocated a total of 15 wild water buffaloes (Bubalus arnee) to Chitwan in a bid to create an alternative settlement for the endangered bovine species.
Currently, the park has a total of 12 wild water buffaloes including three calves after a few of them died in the attacks of other wild animals and from natural causes.
The birth of an Arna calf inside the Chitwan National Park in 2017 left conservationists elated as it was the first instance in the park in 70 years.
Arna is named as an endangered species—there are 3,400 of them in the world—on the International Union for Conservation of Nature Red List.
The Koshi Tappu Wildlife Reserve, the major habitat of Arna in the country with a population of 441, also faced a challenge in protecting its Arna numbers after mysterious deaths of cattle were reported in villages surrounding the park. The reserve is also dealing with the habitat loss due to floods that occur almost every year during monsoon and the possibility of inter-species breeding with the domestic buffaloes.
At Chitwan Park, the authority wants to not only enhance the park coverage but also maintain their habitat by improving the grassland and adding more water sources inside the fenced area.
“We will soon be opening the tenders for increasing the fencing area and creating more ponds. Water buffaloes need more and more water as they enjoy in ponds,” said Ghimire.
Even the expanded area will be a controlled habitat with fencing all around, according to Ghimire. But there is no plan for releasing these Arnas growing up inside the enclosure into the natural settings anytime soon.
“In Chitwan, we are observing how these wild water buffaloes adapt to the changed habitat. This is a research trial so far,” said Ghimire. “The park does not have any immediate plan to let them out naturally. Let them first grow inside the enclosure.”