WWF-India helps protect the forests of Nandhor valley

Posted on
07 October 2011
Forest Department supported with a patrolling elephant

Importance of Nandhor valley
Uttarakhand’s picturesque Nandhor Valley is located at the heart of the Terai Arc Landscape - an 800km long stretch of fertile land that lies along the Himalayan foothills bordering Nepal in India. The TAL region, fed by the rivers flowing down the Himalayas, teems with forests on one hand but is threatened by an ever increasing human population on the other.
TAL map
The Nandhor valley, with an area of about 1800sq. km and bound by Gola-Ladhya and Sharda rivers, is spread out in Haldwani, Terai East and Champawat Forest Divisions. Among the wildlife corridors here are Gola, Kilpura-Khatima-Surai and Boom-Bhramdev, which are crucial for the revival of the elephant migration route from Haldwani Forest Division to Sukhlaphanta Wildlife Reserve across the border in Nepal (A.J.T. Johnsingh 2000). An elephant population of about 25-30 individuals have made the 750 sq. km Haldwani Forest Division their home and they need corridors to move freely.

The vegetation of the Nandhor valley forests comprises a mosaic of dry and moist deciduous forests with traces of temperate forests towards the higher elevation areas. This landscape still holds potential for the conservation of tigers, as it has nearly 1000 sq. km of tiger habitat that needs better protection. This area is well connected with the forests in Nepal across the River Sharada on the eastern side and it continues till the eastern part of Sukhlaphanta Wildlife Reserve.

Issues and WWF-India’s interventions
According to Joseph Vattakaven, Tiger-Coordinator, WWF-India, “WWF-India has initiated a study in Nandhor valley, which is one of the potential tiger areas in the TAL India. Tigers once had a wide distribution across the Nandhor valley, however, they have been exterminated through much of their previous range due to various causes driven by adverse human impacts. This landscape can house a breeding population of 40-50 tigers, but poaching of ungulates, i.e. the prey species by local communities is potentially a major cause of absence of tigers in this area (Johnsingh et al. 2004).”

Adds Dr. K.D. Kandpal, Coordinator, WWF-India, TAL-Kaladhungi Field Office, “Since human population density is highest in these areas (WWF-India 2007), effective conservation must take into account the needs of local people, as they can be a valuable asset to improving the state of environment in this area. Therefore, reducing impacts of human activities on tigers and their prey species through appropriate interventions is a central concern of WWF in the Nandhor valley. Apart from a survey of prey and predator presence, a socio-economic survey is underway in five crucial villages of the study area. Two women groups have been identified as the catalytic groups to motivate local people through Self Help Groups (SHG) in the project area.”

He further elaborates, “Nandhor valley is governed by the three forest divisions of Haldwani, Terai East and Champawat (Boom Range). Recently WWF-India team along with the Forest Department staff camera trapped one tiger from this area. The key potential area for tiger and elephants falls in Haldwani Forest Division surrounded by Champawat in north east and Terai East in south. This is a potential site where we could see tiger numbers doubling in coming years. Two priority corridors namely Kilpura-Khatima and Boom-Bhramdev of TAL fall in Nandhor. If protected in a better way, Nandhor can serve as a source population for tigers across boundaries in the Himalayas (Indo-Nepal).”

Rani, the patrol elephant
Nandhor valley is isolated from the rest of the landscape during the critical monsoon season. For almost 6 months the rivers and seasonal streams in this valley brim with water making it difficult for the Forest Department staffs to patrol the area either in vehicles or on foot. This makes the valley vulnerable to poachers and miscreants to invade the forest for hunting and timber collection. Keeping this in view, WWF-India has provided an elephant, named Rani to the Haldwani Forest Division of the Uttarakhand Forest Department to assist in patrolling these forests. According to Dr. Kandpal, “Patrolling on this elephant will help secure an area of 200 sq. km. Once this becomes beneficial we will try to provide one or two more elephants for the whole landscape.”

This intervention is the latest in WWF-India’s engagement with Nandhor valley for almost 2 years now to save this magnificent tiger and elephant habitat.


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