SUBJECT :Neora Valley National Park in Kalimpong, home to the “endangered red panda and the vulnerable clouded leopard, might see its wildlife diversity increase in an updated database that takes into account an additional 78sq km of forested area. 

Neora Valley National Park in Kalimpong. Image Source - darjeeling-tourism.com

Calcutta, May 8, 2018: Neora Valley National Park in Kalimpong, home to the “endangered " red panda and the " vulnerable " clouded leopard, might see its wildlife diversity increase in an updated database that takes into account an additional 78sq km of forested area.

A 10- day survey carried out recently at the park was the first since the span of the protected zone almost doubled in 2013. The added area increased the size of the park to 160sq km, varying in altitudes ranging from 100ft to 10,000ft.

Animesh Bose of the Himalayan Nature and Adventure Foundation told Metro that the survey was the first of many that will be done over the next five years. “We will have surveys in different months to track wildlife movement that depends on the change of seasons, " he said.

Neora Valley is a popular leisure and adventure destination, especially for those with special interests like birdwatching and wildlife treks. Based on the findings of the survey, a new forest management plan will revise access and restrictions on tourist traffic.

The survey team had camped within the forest and carried out the survey in three phases, going from lower to higher altitudes.

“A tiger had been spotted in February 2017 in the added area of the park, the flora and fauna of which have yet to be documented. If that part of the forest has tigers, there must be enough prey for the big cats to survive, “said a naturalist who was part of the 13- member team that conducted the survey between February 22 and March 13.

A forest official said both direct and indirect evidences were noted. Direct evidence means an animal has been sighted while indirect evidence denotes scratches left on a tree by an animal, pug marks and scat.

Staggered surveys across seasons are the recommended way to record fauna because some animals go into hibernation during winter while others are easier to sight when the weather is colder.

“Snakes go into hibernation during winter. So do bears that live in higher altitudes, “said Subhankar Sengupta, the chief conservator of forests (headquarters).

The next survey at Neora Valley has been planned for October or thereabouts.

Neora Valley is special because it has four kinds of natural vegetation — tropical, sub- tropical, temperate and sub- temperate — from the lower to the upper reaches of the park. Besides the reclusive red panda and the clouded leopard, some patches of these pristine forests hide the musk deer.

The park is also a birdwatcher’s paradise. The survey revealed more than 200 species of birds in the added area, besides a variety of snakes, butterflies, moths and beetles.

Elephants have also been recorded in the past.

Parts of Neora Valley remain inaccessible because of altitude, which some conservationists feel isn’t a bad thing despite the challenges of documentation.


Source: The Telegraph India