Conservationists hopeful for population increase of swamp deer in ShuklaphantaLast year’s census put the number of swamp deer at the park at 2,313.
The expansion of swamp deer habitat in Shuklaphanta National Park has made conservationists hopeful of an increase in the swamp deer population in the area.
Shuklaphanta, the country’s second youngest national park, has vast grassland covering around 54 square kilometres. The expansive grassland is the main habitat of swamp deer (Rucervus duvaucelii), locally called barhasingha.
Of late, the frequency of swamp deer sightings has increased in Lalpani, Andai Pataiya, Hirapur and Bhatpuri areas across the Chaudhar River as well.
“The grazing land for swamp deer has been gradually expanding in the national park area,” said Roshan Singh Thagunna, the acting chief conservation officer at the national park. “A good number of swamp deer can be spotted in the eastern sector across the Chaudhar River.”
The Shuklaphanta National Park has been monitoring and counting the swamp deer population in the national park for the past one decade. The count is conducted during wildlife week celebrated every first week of Nepali New Year. This year, Nepali New Year was observed on April 14.
According to Thagunna, a technical team commenced the monitoring and counting on Monday. The regular monitoring and count of the swamp deer is held for four days, he said. This year the count is being conducted in the new habitat as well.
According to the park administration, the monitoring and counting of the swamp deer are conducted through head counts. The employees and technicians of the national park have been mobilised for the count. The park’s elephants are also used in the count.
According to Manoj Air, assistant conservation officer at the national park, the grasslands in Shuklaphanta are waterlogged and become muddy during the rainy season so the swamp deer move to higher altitude places for grazing.
“In this process, the herds of swamp deer have gradually moved towards Barnikheda, Bhatpuri, Lalpani and Sundariphant areas in recent years. Around 100 swamp deer were found in this area during last year’s monitoring,” said Air.
“Moving forward, it is important to manage the grasslands well for the preservation of the swamp deer.”
Established as a wildlife reserve in 1976 and declared a national park in 2017, Shuklaphanta is located in the southwestern corner of Nepal in the Sudurpaschim province.
Conservationists say the largest herd of swamp deer in Asia can be seen in the grasslands of Shuklaphanta.
As many as 2,313 swamp deer were recorded in Shuklaphanta National Park during last year’s census. The population was 2,246 in 2021. Conservationists hope for a slight increase in the number this year as well.
Around two dozen swamp deer were translocated to Bardiya and Chitwan national parks from Shuklaphanta six years ago. But the drive hit a snag as the relocated deer species could not survive in the new habitats.
According to the Shuklaphanta National Park officials, all the swamp deer sent to Bardiya and Chitwan died.
Swamp deer are the prey animals for tigers. The increase of swamp deer is supposed to benefit the big cats.
Shuklaphanta National Park, which is spread over an area of 305 square kilometres, is home to 36 adult tigers and 16 rhinoceros.