Rainforest Trust and our long-time partner, KTK-BELT have recently created two protected areas in Nepal’s Himalayas totalling 261,557 acres––that’s one-third larger than New York City. This is the biggest step so far in our joint multi-year, multi-project mission to save habitat in a “belt” from the country’s lowlands, all the way up to the Himalayas through community outreach and land protection.

Newly protected valley in the Himalayas. Photo by KTK-BELT.

The most recent of these designations took place this month with the creation of the Lungbasamba Landscape Biocultural Heritage and Ecotourism Special Conservation Zone, spanning 176,630-acres of high-altitude rugged mountain landscape. This followed our success in September––establishing the 84,927-acre Topkegola Biocultural Heritage and Ecotourism Special Conservation Zone. Both of these projects safeguard critical mountain forest habitat from threats of deforestation from road construction and commercial development. Iconic species like Snow Leopards, Red Pandas, Himalayan Black Bears, Indian Pangolins and Clouded Leopards will all benefit from these protections.

Endangered Red Panda. Photo By Axel Gebauer.

Also in this region, our two organizations protected 150 acres of the Tinjure-Milkhe-Jaljale (TMJ) Rhododendron Forest of eastern Nepal in 2019. Known as the ‘Rhododendron Capital of the Himalayas,’ it is one of the most unique habitats of the entire Himalayan range, consisting of 28 species of rhododendrons and more than a thousand different plant species, of which more than 100 are endemic. The area is also renowned for its abundance of wintering and staging bird species such as Snow Partridge, Himalayan Monal, Rufous-winged Fulvetta, Rusty-cheeked Scimitar Babbler and Endangered Steppe Eagle. But as significant threats of logging and land-grabbing continue to endanger the TMJ, we are working to help declare the entire landscape of 136,000 acres as a new protected area for these rare rhododendrons and other species.

Snow Leopard. Photo by Warren Metcalf.

Our efforts on this mission began in Nepal’s lowlands in 2018, when Rainforest Trust worked with KTK-BELT to establish the 40-acre Paschim Kusha Bird Sanctuary to safeguard critical riparian habitat against threats of agricultural expansion. The sanctuary acts as a buffer to the famously biodiverse Koshi Tappu Wildlife Reserve and bolsters protection for species like the Critically Endangered Bengal Florican, Red-headed Vulture and Yellow-breasted Bunting, as well as the Endangered South Asian River Dolphin and Elongated Tortoise.

Sunset at the Paschim Kusha Bird Sanctuary. Photo by KTK-BELT.

“We are so grateful for the deep partnership we have with Rainforest Trust in realizing the vision of a Vertical University spanning from Koshi Tappu wetlands to the Papung-Lungba Samba highlands,” said Rajeev Goyal, KTK-BELT co-founder. “Each project collaboration with Rainforest Trust has fortified the biocultural heritage of indigenous communities and protected some of the world’s most endangered wildlife.”