Fishy Tales – Nepal

Fishy Tales – Nepal

Photo of Nepal mahseer Tor putitora from Babai River used by kind permission of Arun Rana

Do not let selfish men or greedy interests skin your country of its beauty, its riches or its romance.”  Theodore Roosevelt

Before you can conserve something, you have to know what it is called. I don’t know who first said that famous phrase, it may have been in common use for hundreds of years, but it certainly holds true for the hidden world of freshwater ecosystems. Beneath the surface of the rivers of India’s sub-continent there are many things still to be understood, so if we are to protect them, then we need to understand their value, and that starts by first knowing what they are.

My first ever visit to Nepal was essential for me to get to grips with learning some of the subtle differences between the land-locked country and its massive brotherly neighbour, India, where I have spent 20 years helping to fight against the devastation of river habitats. It was quite striking to see that India is putting enormous pressure on Nepal to control the flow of the rivers before they cross the southern borders. For India, this involves moderating flows so that the show-piece Ganga river navigation scheme can be a success; for Nepal, building dams is said to be to allow ready access to cheap power, which will enable development and income.


All powered up

During a number of meetings, in Kathmandu and Pokhara, with a cross-section of concerned river users and also those who are involved in working on river development schemes, there was broad consensus that poorer areas of the country needed access to power, but that there are more sustainable ways of achieving this than simply putting huge dams across every river.

Judging by some of the responses I got, and some of the reports I read, there is little public understanding or reporting of the fact that many of the proposed hydropower schemes are already set to be ‘white elephants’. The economic rational seems based on India buying surplus power at inflated prices, when India (which already generates surplus capacity) would be losing sales to Nepal and thus have more power than it needs or can use.

There have been reports in some areas of the press about the environmental impacts of the dam building programme, but as is often the case when large multi-national companies are trying to encourage dam building, correct and thorough Environmental Impact Assessments are low down the list of priorities.

In a letter to the Himalayan Times, I gave my response to an excellent article by Hari Krishna Shrestha ¹, in which I explained about how important a full understanding of e-flows is when trying to assess the environmental impact upon a whole river basin, not simply the command area. E-flows have to be recorded over years and during many different seasons to have any chance of being effective. And then, when they are built into an operating programme for a dam, it has to be understood that they are a minimum requirement, not part of a wish list.


Habitat is key

In a short meeting held in Kathmandu, at the Central Zoo ², we all agreed that ensuring the viability of habitat is essential for all, no matter what the specialist interest. This concern for habitat protection connects all those who value the riches that nature offer to mankind and extends across natural and political boundaries. Freshwater habitat is one of the most vulnerable spaces on the planet, yet we and future generations are so dependent upon the bounty it brings.

As Theodore Roosevelt said, “To waste, to destroy our natural resources, to skin and exhaust the land instead of using it so as to increase its usefulness, will result in undermining in the days of our children the very prosperity which we ought by right to hand down to them amplified and developed.”

Following the devastating earthquake of 2015, there is a huge and ongoing rebuilding campaign in Nepal. Unfortunately, even the government programme to allow individuals to reconstruct their own houses is beset with delays and problems of communication. Quite rightly, allowing people to find adequate shelter is a huge priority as another monsoon season looms.

Concern about where the building supplies come from, how much of the natural environment is ruined, and whether or not the massive removal of river aggregates is being done under the cover of a building programme that quite clearly is not what it should be are questions that need to be answered urgently.

Sand and gravel mining is a huge and very often illegal industry common to both India and Nepal. There have been many instances of Mafia figures intimidating local communities and resorting to killing journalists and even police ³ who threaten to expose them. My advice to all those who are threatened by those involved with the removal of river substrate, or those in both countries who want to oppose this pernicious industry, is to make local communities aware of the dangers they are unleashing. Those precious sands and gravels ensure river flow is moderated and that groundwater recharge continues. Removal means the river will be faster, more powerful, and hence more dangerous when in flood. It also means there will be less of the life-giving water locked into the earth for slow release once the rains are over.

So although the conservationists among us are desperately keen to stop the removal of habitat, whether spawning gravels for fish, or fertilising silt deposited on river bends to create new vegetation for nesting birds, there are also direct human consequences. We should be ever more connected, both inter-disciplinary and cross-boundary to take forward this fight against those who have only instant profit in their minds, those with no concern for the wider impacts and who are indifferent to the needless deaths and destruction they wreak.


Where next

I was very lucky to find that there are lots of concerned people, across a wide range of disciplines, who have the country’s rivers at heart. Not only fish scientists, but also those working on water birds, insects, amphibians, to pollution and river flows, and also flowers and trees. All have a role to play in ensuring river ecosystems can withstand the challenges of providing the benefits humans need while also sustaining a diversity of life. But the challenges are many and varied and it will take long struggle to ensure these vital lifelines are not bottled up for the benefit and enrichment of a privileged few.

It was unfortunate for me that Megh Ale ⁴ was not available for my meeting. However, we have agreed through email contact and following on from previous meetings between Nepal’s ‘River Man’ and Mahseer Trust Chair, Ian Pett, that the River Karnali, Nepal’s longest river, has to be protected. It can be viewed as a natural treasure on an equal footing with the majesty of the Himalayan peaks, with mysteries below its waters that even now require patient study to even begin to grasp their value to the people who live alongside.

Here too, there is a hidden story about human suffering that should cause those who are prepared to cut off a large part of the river to stop and think about the ramifications.

The Nepali Times reported ⁵ on the four-year drought that has been responsible for such a loss of food production that the inhabitants are no longer able to store seed for the next growing period. This drought is blamed on the depletion of the water table, in an area fed by two rivers under threat of damming: the Mahakali and the Karnali. Once again, catastrophic impact on humans is as much a concern as changes to the environment and the result for wildlife. This shows very clearly that people are and should always be seen as, integral parts of the environment, not only because of our use of ecosystem services, but also how vulnerable we are to their loss. The completion of a comprehensive EIA on the Karnali dam site is only the first step. Negotiations between Mahseer Trust, Megh Ale and Bhaskar Karki of International Centre for Integrated Mountain Development (ICIMOD) should lead to a major review of the whole river and its associated biodiversity over the next year.


Finally, the fish

Fish are ‘my thing’ and although I am firmly of the opinion that all those who benefit or are impacted by river habitats have a need to work together, still, fish are my primary concern. In particular, my focus is on mahseer, a large, omnivorous member of the carp family. These beautiful creatures live in well-oxygenated, fast flowing rivers, and are perfect bio-indicators.

Currently, in Nepal, there is only one species of mahseer that is correctly documented and fairly well understood: Tor putitora, the golden mahseer. However, it is pretty certain that two more species are present in Nepal’s rushing rivers: Tor tor and Tor mosal, although neither species can, currently, be identified with any certainty, due to sketchy initial descriptions and decades of ignorance pedalled as scientific truths. Add to this mix that there may well be other species, as yet undescribed, and my opening remarks leave not only mahseer, but also many other less visible fish species facing uncertain futures.

Untangling the status of T. tor and T. mosal has to be the first step in any river conservation plan that involves fish. If there is a young scientist in Nepal who is interested in and has some experience of handling fish, then I would love to hear from you. A plan is in place to carry out a project, and I can help to find the funding needed to enable a robust and long-term field study for the right person. Simply drop me an email to: with a short introduction note and I will help to put together a team to help establish, once and for all, some of the mystery of Nepal’s major river fish.

Once we know what it is, we can begin positive plans to protect it, and that will bring benefits for all those who depend upon Nepal’s beautiful rivers.


Steve Lockett is the Education and Outreach Officer for the Mahseer Trust, a UK-based NGO who use scientific research into the fishes of the Tor genus and the ecosystems in which they live to shape conservation and education agendas for river habitats and those who depend upon them.

The Mahseer Trust uses the tagline: rivers – fish – people. They estimate that almost half of the population of India has a close dependence upon a river ecosystem, before water supplies to cities are taken into account.

Find out more about them on the website:

Or email

Photo of Nepal mahseer Tor putitora from Babai River used by kind permission of Mr. Arun Rana






⁶ The type locality of Tor mosal (Hamilton, 1822) (Teleostei: Cyprinidae) Raghavan, Dahanukar, Britz


Human Invasion and Conservation

Conservation is to maintain viable population of organism under carrying capacity in their habitat. Actually, conservation is focused on human survival and is a complete manipulation to ensure human existence on Earth. Conservation principle suggest the maintenance of viable population of organism in two cases:

  1. If the population is large, reduce to the level of carrying capacity and
  2. If population is very low, apply manipulation to raise to carrying capacity level.

According to recent conservation scenario, human invasion is supported and natural evolutionary process is challenged.  Agreeable thing is, yes universe itself is changing, evolution and extinction is going on but H. sapiens sapiens has enhanced the ratio which is disastrous. All the global issues like climate change, degradation, deforestation, food insecurity etc. are evolved due to the negative anthropogenic events. All the organism consume food in natural raw form but human transforms, that is root cause for degradation and destruction. The theme is survival and desire is optional.

Many organisms before human, evolved, invaded and extinct. But in the specific human case, they assumed that they can determine their existence period by themselves. The concerned bodies with animal rights have also the same theory.

The human population, major contributor for the carbon dioxide in air, ozone layer depletion, habitat fragmentation, shrinkage and threats to organisms has just invaded like Lantana camara and Mikania micrantha in forest. Nature always boycott overpopulated species from the ecosystem and humans are for this period. Being wise and intelligent H. sapiens sapiens has owned the earth as this is only their property. Like other organism, humans are also sharing same habitat. Sharing habitat to extinction of other organism is not fair. Surviving in same ecological condition suggests all organisms have equal rights to use the habitat components.

Strange! Now Earth is shaped to sustain human invasion rather providing space to organisms which are in the risk of extinction.


Author: Shristee Panthee, Email:

The Author of this article is student from Institute of Forestry, Pokhara, Nepal.



Once, Danish Travelogue writer Hans Christian Anderson said “To travel is to live”. There is no doubt that a traveller lives two times more life than those who stays. Travelling has been more popular these days because of the easiest transportation and promotion. There are some places in the world which have remained virgin due to privation of promotion.
It was 1PM, 1st of May when we reached Khalanga of Pyuthan in Motorbike from Lamahi, Dang. Our Journey started from the khalanga after interaction with DFO of Pyuthan. Actually, we had no idea about route to follow and destination to reach. It was plan of Chiran Dai (Chiranjeevi Khanal) to explore Syaulibang VDC which harbors highest peak in Pyuthan. The road from Bagdula to Thulabesi was semi-graveled. The real drive started after Thulabesi. The road seemed just constructed with large stones on the way. Though the road condition slowed our speed, the scenery of terrace farming with adjoining river accelerated our motivation. As it was month of May, trees had just started to grow young leaves. The whole landscape looked like a fresh canvas of Picaso. The road became more and more challenging after Rajbara. Calls of Spiny babbler and Koels cheered up the exquisiteness of forest. As higher we reached, I had to walk as we couldn’t ride the bike with two person. But I enjoyed with my camera as I could capture some beautiful butterflies and birds. After walk and drive of four hours we reached Syaulibang. It was already night and we were confused as we couldn’t find the hotels to stay a night over. A man of about 35 named Pritha Bahadur helped and led us to hotel. After we got a small room to sleep, we started interaction with locals. Four young Guys and two old men were in our round table. We got to know that the highest peak lies 3600m above freezing.
Next morning, rain disturbed our early departure. We had a young guy to lead us to the highest peak named Kothibhir. After having chicken and Dhido, one of my favorite dish at home of secretary of Kothibhir development centre Nepal (KDCN), our trek started at 12. The sun cleared all clouds for our trek. Along the side of Kharikhola, our feet stretched ahead. Cattle were grazing in the field and herders were doing their own work at shed. Interestingly, Dhib our guide cum friend of syaulibang described the lifestyle of herder. They shift their shed in every season to find much grass for grazing. But, the fact that amazed us was that it was not actually for business purpose. It was just to fulfill need of milk and ghee in their family. Our move was on into the wilderness. White capped water redstart, Minivets, Blackbirds, Verditer Flycatchers seemed to enjoy flying and playing here and there along the watercourse. After climbing semi vertical hill we reached to famous pilgrimage destination Naubaini (Nine sisters) temple. We came to know about the historical story of Naubaini. During the days of origin of human civilization, there lived nine sisters who were protector of life of wildlife and human. We also observed the natural waterfall with 9 flowing route. Soon after temple, the rock with Supo chalno () and Khet bari was visible to our eyes. This was evidence of how nature carves all these beautiful things. On the way, there was waterfall named ‘Guptechahara’ which was named after its structure. People believed that this waterfall looked like the reproductive organ of women. Guptechahara appeared like a women giving birth to a child. Interestingly, this natural waterfall with flowing water seemed to disappear inside the rocks as it streamed down. Similarly, there was cave of nine sisters, unfortunately we couldn’t enter the cave as we had chicken as our lunch. They believed that only impure body will distract the god and she will harm them. After an hour walk from cave we reached to Khalizbang, the most beautiful potato farm! You won’t believe, the whole scene from khalizbang was beyond our expectation. Plain valley in 2500m altitude which was surrounded by dense forest and high hills. We enjoyed the enchanting view. We all wished to stay there forever but we were traveller and we had to leave. We reached Guransey at 7 in the evening. There were two women in the shed. One of them appeared like she was in her early eighties and another looked in her seventies. Their warm welcome in such cold places had eliminated all our tiredness. They made Dhido and some wild vegetables. That was some delicious food I ever had. The wild mushroom tasted different compared to the local one. Due to shortage of mens wear in the area, we had to buy womens clothes and wear as the cold almost got us. After the deep sleep in cold shed, it was another day as we could feel and see the rays of sun hitting us. The scenery of Kothi bhir from the shed was something to cherish. That was the very same hill we had to climb in few hours. We started to hike up. It was totally vertical trail from the forest to nude hill. After 5 hours of the trek through scattered forest patch, we reached to the Lower edge of kothi bhir. The mesmerizing view of pathibhara mountain and associated range in top with Baglung, Rolpa and Pyuthan in lower part. Our guide cum friend pointed the forest belt of Rolpa connected with Pyuthan as the potential site of Red panda. We got to know that local herder often encountered with Red panda in the area.
Chiran Dai asked me to zoom on the hill of opposite side as he had noticed some movements there. When I zoomed to 80x, my eyes stood still out there. There was national bird of Nepal, Danphe. Actually this was my first sighting. Danphe was foraging in the top of hill. We climbed another vertical trail for an hour. I suddenly noticed ghoral in another hill right infront. I suddenly grabbed my camera and captured the creature in my lens. This was first sighting for me and chiran dai as well. The frequent observation of pellets of deer family and scat of cat family proved the wildlife potential of the area. We reached Kothibhir, the highest peak of Pyuthan district at 3660m altitude. We could see Nissi VDC of Baglung and Gam VDC of Rolpa clearly. The very moment was splendid. I felt heavenly to be present there. There were east facing rocks in another hill. People believed that the traveller from west used to rest in this place and travel east. So, those stone denoted direction of traveller.
We moved down in 3 hours nearly to khalizbang and again 4 hours to syaulibang. In total, it was 12 hours journey that day. The sound of Rodhi (typical nepali song competition between male and female) echoed the whole village. Unfortunately, we couldn’t attend rodhi because of exhaustion. I can never forget the people of Syaulibang for their warm welcome and support. We are indebted to Kothibhir development centre Nepal (KDCN) for their hospitality during the journey.
At the end of the page I must write “if you dare to travel, Travel Syaulibang”.
For More information about travelling please contact the author at
And for plenty of information.


Spiny Babbler

The ever sweet sound

on Chomolungma bound

that sweetest song I ever heard

it’s the voice of the tiny loveliest bird on earth.


I were as if obsessed

by this personal’s manifest,


each time I entered this serene immense garden

that friendliest wide vast most beautiful

a great diversity of flora and fauna to be found

and that clear loudest song of the tiny bird

It can only be found amongst these hills

of the fascinating Wildlife Nature of Nepal.


Amongst untrodden paths amongst these peaceful hills

that bird so beautiful I was following

I walk on quietly amongst the many

fascinating flowers and trees to watch

not just an immense super garden, but realize

this is the window of the world, baby, in top size


I am amidst this most precious fauna

and the great diversity of flora.


Of all those gardens on this earth

that tiny singing bird kept calling to me

it is the Spiny Babbler that could sing

like I have never heard on this crowded earth

so tremendously beautiful, so crystal clearest

this tiny singing bird made me feel to love this place as the dearest

that crystal clearest and loveliest sound

made me feel like home.


Amongst the rich green valleys and the wealthy hills

of the fantastic Wildlife nature of Nepal

with its beauty and so much diversity

in flora and fauna,

especially the Spiny Babbler

Nowhere on this crowded earth to find

only here, that loveliest bird is one of a kind


I have traveled all over the world

such a most beautiful singing bird unique in its kind

to be found only on this special ground

of Wildlife Nature of Nepal abound.



The World Traveler – Poetess

© Sylvia Frances Chan

Photograph: Sagar Giri, Wildlife Photographer



This zest I always possess

a glee to my adventurous heart

amongst the hills in Wildlife Nature of Nepal

I feel like home on this geographic, serene place.


I have peregrinated to all corners of the world

Yes, to the five continents, America ( North-South )

Europe, Africa, Asia and Australia

never have I found this tiny Spiny Babbler, the cutest songbird

unique,  only here to find, this high quality bird is one of a kind

I feel like home in this Wildlife Nature of Nepal.


I found peace and serenity

I feel me uplifted as soon as the Spiny Babbler starts to sing

Amongst the wealth of Wildlife Nature of Nepal

I have found my home in these friendliest surroundings

nowhere to find in no other national parks

only in the Wildlife Nature of Nepal.


© Sylvia Frances Chan

World Traveler – Poetess


Butterfly Rediscovered after 8 Years

Spotted royal butterfly

During the Regular monitoring of Butterfly in Institute of Forestry, Pokhara a rare species of Butterfly has been rediscovered. According to report it was previously sighted in 2009 but confirmation is yet to be done by the experts. Tajuria maculata, the spotted royal, is a species of lycaenid or blue butterfly found in Asia. It is eastern species rarely occurs in central Nepal. It is uncommon to rare throughout its range, although reportedly common in Pokhara, and usually observed  between 1,000–1,500 m. This sighting has added rediscovered another beautiful creature from biodiversity of Pokhara.

Ode to the fascinating Wildlife Nature of Nepal

Jungle Owlet

Finally, she has found her home,

a most beautiful, gigantic paradise-alike dome

the loveliest ground she had discovered

after so many years of having traveled.


So many loveliest flowers to be found

a diversity of rare flora and fauna abound

many butterflies are enjoying

the coolness of the myriad trees

the Spiny Babbler are oft singing

amidst these anchored hills of exciting

Wildlife Nature of Nepal.


The fresh air of the summer heat

are flowing through the myriad fields

through smallest paths, holes, and gaps

such a smooth weather, sweetest scents

is she or am I on Nirvana’s ground perhaps?


And what is cozier on this planet

then to listen to the song of this small bird

on the Fascinating Wildlife of Nepal´s immense ground

serene, loveliest and so peaceful

amongst these hills so beautiful

the musical performance of the Spiny Babbler

only to be found in the Wildlife Nature of Nepal!


I have traveled everywhere on this globe

scattered on the five continents

but this tiny beautiful songbird, the Spiny Babbler

is unique, only to be found and heard here

amongst the green hills of

the fascinating Wildlife Nature of Nepal.


© Sylvia Frances Chan

The World Traveler – Poetess

Butterfly Conservation Initiation In Institute of Forestry,Pokhara

Red Spotted Jezebal

Butterfly plays an important role as a member of food chain. Role play as a prey ensures survival of birds, insects, herpetofauna etc. Birds select high food availability area and presence of butterfly ensures quality food to birds. It is found that the favorable habitat for butterfly also favors other invertebrates. Being a vital component absence of it deteriorates whole food chain and decide the lifespan of other species of same food chain. This relation check and balance population of interlinked species. Butterfly can’t survive in polluted and destructed habitat. So, it plays the indicator role of healthy ecosystem. For the evaluation and monitoring of habitat condition butterfly abundance is the easy, quick and scientific method which is frequently used. Naturally occurring important process, pollination is carried out by different pollinator and one of them is butterfly. This helps in plant fertilization and continuation of plant generation. Butterfly inputs in plants conservation and in return it is saving its own habitat. Few works were done in some potential sites of country but many sites are virgin. Conservation   measure is not taken yet.

A group of Student in Institute of Forestry, Pokhara have initiated Butterfly monitoring and identification program. As the concern over conservation of Butterfly is very less, this steps can somehow aid in the conservation of Butterfly. This group have informed that they would be conducting “Butterfly Identification training” very soon to familiarize young conservationist with diversity of Butterfly. Free search method is used to understand their status and diversity. Hope this type of conservation action will inspire Nepal.

World Wetlands day 2017

World Wetlands Day is celebrated every year on 2 February. This day marks the date of the adoption of the Convention on Wetlands on 2 February 1971, in the Iranian city of Ramsar on the shores of the Caspian Sea.

Since 1997, the Ramsar Secretariat has provided outreach materials to help raise public awareness about the importance and value of wetlands.

The Standing Committee of the Ramsar Convention on Wetlands approved Wetlands for Disaster Risk Reduction as the theme for World Wetlands Day in 2017, during its 52nd meeting held in Gland, Switzerland from 13 – 17 June 2016.

This theme is selected to raise awareness and to highlight the vital roles of healthy wetlands in reducing the impacts of extreme events such as floods, droughts and cyclones on communities, and in helping to build resilience.


Children Catapult & Conservation

“Hello brother! How much these catapult cost?”, I asked a shopkeeper in Suryapura.
Suryapura Vdc lies north east from lumbini with 10 km distant.
“30 for the readymade and 20 for that rubber” he replied with a smile.
I was with camera on my hand, jack wolfskin winter cap on my head and 45+5 litre senterlan bag on my back. I probably looked a little different with my dressup and instruments in the market at 7 in the morning.
“Brother, what is catapult for?”, I asked as if i was unknown about it.
“To kill birds”, he replied with smile again.
“Wow, can you hunt for me? I love birds meat”, I asked.
” I don’t hunt. I just sell these to local villagers. They often hunt egrets, herons, owl”, he replied.
” Oh, owl! Do they hunt larger owl? I would love to see that “, I asked.
“Not so often these days, but they hunt some white large birds at the farm”, he explained.
I took the photograph of catapult while i was throwing questions at him constantly.
“So, Who hunts mostly, childrens or adult?”, I asked.
“Most of them are children, but whenever they see some larger birds or some unfamiliar one they call their guardians and their seniors”, he replied.
” What about you? Do you go out on hunting?”, I asked him very freely as if i was there to cheer him up.
“No, i don’t go out on hunting”, he replied.
“Brother, a catapult in your shop could take lives of hundreds and hundreds of birds. This can be another reason for the extinction of sarus from our backyards”, I added sarus because people’s religious belief and superstitions are connected with sarus.
“No one hunts for sarus”, he replied instantly.
The bus was ready to leave and i had to go soon.
“Brother, it would be great if i do not see these catapult here in your shop in my next visit”.
He didn’t reply and i couldn’t wait for it. Catapult in a shop pushed young kids to hunt. There is not even a chance of learning how to kill birds. It’s about their daily practice as game. Those parents who cook their hunt and cheer their child for bringing meal are also equally responsible. There are two reasons ; Game and Meal. When second one replaces the first one, hunt becomes necessity. It would become more than profession. A 16 year boy in pokharvindi vdc has even mentioned the weight of some hunted farmland birds. That has blown our mind to an extent. As always, there is a high demand of mega campaign through national media; it could be national television which should be more focused on school curriculum about bird conservation.