A diverse range of flora and fauna can be found in Nepal’s nine national parks and three wildlife reserves. Here are a few examples of the rich biodiversity found in this tiny landlocked country.
Rhododendron: Over 30 sub-species of Rhododendron arboreum are found in Nepal. Rhododendron arboreum ssp. arboreum have rose-red flowers and are hardy up to about -10°C. Known as ‘Lali Gurans’ in Nepali, it is the national flower. Rhododendron arboreum ssp. cinnamomeum can withstand -15°C to -18°C temperatures.
Orchids: There are 386 orchid varieties in Nepal. Orchids growing at higher altitudes typically bloom during the summer monsoon. In Dolpa, in the far west of Nepal is found Dactylorhinza hatagirea which grows at altitudes of 2,500–5,000 meters and is prized for its medicinal properties. Flickingrea macrei and Pholidota articulate are also orchids that are highly valued for their invigorating properties.
Royal Bengal Tiger: In Nepal’s three protected zones there are 150-250 tigers. Males may be 270-310 cm long while females measure 240–265 cm. Male tigers weigh in at around 235 kg while females may weigh about 140 kg.
One Horned Rhino: Numbering about 400 in Chitwan National Park, there are reportedly 31 rhinos in Bardiya National Park and six in the Suklaphanta Wildlife Reserve. They weigh up to 2,700 kg.
Yak: Found as high as 7,000 meters, they weighing up to 550 kg. Males are called yaks while the females are known as naks (or dris in the Sherpa language). As well as carrying heavy loads, yaks plow fields and provide milk, butter, and meat as well as wool for clothing and dung for fuel. Their bones are made into artifacts while ropes, sacks, blankets, and tents are made from their hair.
Bharal or Himalayan Blue Sheep: Cross between a sheep and a goat, their rounded and smooth horns curve backwards. They are usually found grazing at altitudes of over 5,000 meters. Moving in large herds, they can scramble up and around the roughest hillsides.
Snow Leopard: Living at between 3,000 and 5,500 metres above sea level, their body length ranges from 75 to 130 cm, with a tail nearly as long. They have dark grey or black rosettes on their body, small spots on their heads and larger ones on their legs and tail.
Gharial: Mature male gharials have a bulbous growth on the nose. A light olive tan color with oblique dark blotches running down the body and tail, gharials can be five to six meters in length. The females lay their eggs on sandy riverbanks. The indigenous Tharus of the area believe the eggs to have medicinal and aphrodisiacal value.
Danfe: Inhabiting the high regions of the Himalayan range, the Monal Pheasant or Danfe, is Nepal’s national bird. Adult males have multicolored plumage with long metallic green crests while females are dull in color. Females have a prominent white patch on the fore neck and a white strip on the tail.
Himalayan Griffon Vulture: Breeding on crags in the Himalayan mountains, they lay a single egg at a time. With a wingspan of about three meters, adult birds are over a meter long. They have a bald white head, a white neck ruff, yellow bill, and short tail feathers.