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Allocated Rs. 10 million to upgrade habitat of wild water buffaloes

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Kathmandu: Chitwan National Park has planned to expand and upgrade the habitat of wild water buffaloes (Arna).

An area of conservation wildlife buffaloes brought from the Koshi Tappu Wildlife Reserve has allocated Rs10 million for the expansion and up-gradation of the habitat of wild buffaloes.

A spokesperson for the Chitwan National Park, Mr. Gopal Ghimire said that the protected area administration will add 15-20 hectares to the existing habitat of wild buffaloes.

Ghimire said-“We have realized that the current habitat is not large enough for Arnas in the park. They need a larger territory. Therefore, we have decided to expand it by up to 20 hectares.”

Wild water buffaloes are now living around the Old Padampur area. These buffaloes live in a house built within the core of the sanctuary, which is mostly known for other wild animals such as the Royal Bengal Tiger, one-horned rhino and elephants.

Wild water buffaloes(Arnas) are not native to Chitwan. They were brought to the park from Koshi Tappu in 2015.

A total of 15 wild water buffaloes (Bubalus arnee) were translocated in Chitwan to establish alternative habitats for endangered bovine species, the National Park and the Department of Wildlife Conservation, the protected area and the government agency for managing wildlife.

There are currently 12 wild water buffaloes in the park, including three calves, after a few of them died due to attacks by other wild animals and natural causes.

Conservationists were elated with the birth of an Arna calf inside the Chitwan National Park in 2017 as it was the first time in the park in 70 years.

Arna is named as an endangered species and there are 3,400 of them in the world on the International Union for Conservation of Nature Red List.

The Koshi Tappu Wildlife Reserve, a prominent resident of Arna, a country with a population of 441, also faced the challenge of protecting the number of Arnas after news of the mysterious death of livestock in villages around the park. The reserve is also dealing with habitat loss due to floods that occur almost every year during monsoon and the possibility of inter-species breeding with the domestic buffaloes.

In Chitwan Park, the authority wants to not only increase the coverage of the park but also improve the grassland area and adding more water sources within the area and maintain their habitat.

Ghimire said-“We will soon be opening the tenders for increasing the fencing area and creating more ponds. Water buffaloes need more and more water as they enjoy in ponds. In Chitwan, we are observing how these wild water buffaloes adapt to the changed habitat. This is a research trial so far. The park does not have any immediate plan to let them out naturally. Let them first grow inside the enclosure.”

According to him, even the expanded area will be a controlled habitat with fencing all around but there is no plan for releasing these Arnas growing up inside the enclosure into the natural settings anytime soon.