Statement of Work for Survey on Local Distribution, Population Status, and Conservation of Himalayan Musk Deer in the Kangchenjunga Conservation Area and Langtang National Park and Buffer Zone in Sacred Himalayan Landscape (SHL)
Himalayan musk deer Moschus chrysogaster is a primitive deer belonging to theorder Artiodactyla and family Moschidae. It is widely but patchily distributed mainly in the forested mountains of eastern Asia, from the Arctic Circle in Siberia in the north, to the north-eastern edge of Mongolia and Korea and further southward across China, away from the Gobi Desert, to Vietnam, and Myanmar continuing as far as the southern Himalaya in Afghanistan, Pakistan, India and Nepal (Corbet and Hill 1992, Wemmer 1998). In Nepal, the occurrence of musk deer have been reported from the altitudinal range of 2200 m to 4400 m in and around the Kangchenjunga Conservation Area (KCA), Arun Valley, Makalu-Barun National Park and Buffer Zone (MBNPBZ), Sagarmatha National Park and Buffer Zone (SNPBZ), Langtang National Park and Buffer Zone (LNPBZ), Manaslu Conservation Area (MCA) in the east and Annapurna Conservation Area (ACA), Shey-Phoksundo National Park and Buffer Zone (SPNPBZ) in the west (Jamwal 1972, IUCN 1993, Kattel 1992, Green, 1985, 1986).
The global population of musk deer is estimated between 400 000 and 800 000 individuals (Wemmer 1998). In Nepal, musk deer population is commonly believed to be increasing within protected areas. The studies undertaken so far have revealed that Sagarmatha National Park has an estimated 600 – 800 animals (Kattel 1992) and over 1000 animals are estimated in the Shey-Phoksundo National Park (Green 1986)
The primary threat for the conservation of musk deer has been the rampant poaching apart from the habitat fragmentation, loss and degradation. This is because the musk produced by males is highly valued for its cosmetic and alleged pharmaceutical properties and can fetch up to US$ 45000 pounds per kilogram (Green 1986). As an effort to protect musk deer from local extinction, the Government of Nepal has enlisted it as an endangered species (NPWC Act 1973). In addition, some community – based musk deer conservation programs have been initiated in ACA, KCA, SNP, SPNP, and LNP in recent times.
Sacred Himalayan Landscape:
The SHL is a trans-boundary conservation area covering 39,021 square kilometers, of which about 73.5% falls in Nepal, 24.4% falls in Sikkim and Darjeeling of India and the remaining 2.1% falls in Bhutan. The SHL extends from Langtang National Park in central Nepal through the Kangchenjunga region in India to Toorsa Strict Nature Reserve in western Bhutan.
The SHL is a microcosm representing the unique identity of the Eastern Himalayan Ecoregion Complex. The landscape’s environmental and cultural characteristics blended with social, political and economic variance, give it extra diversity and distinctive features. In terms of the topography, SHL represents elevations ranging from 139m in India to 8,848m in Mount Everest, the highest point on Earth. The high topographic complexity and related climatic variability give rise to significant ecological gradients, and thus, high ecosystem diversity over a relatively small area. Many of the habitats forming this complex mosaic are unique to this mountain system, being adapted to the harsh and rapidly changing climatic conditions. The landscape includes and retains two globally important contiguous ecoregions in the Eastern Himalayan Alpine Scrub and Meadows and the Eastern Himalayan Broadleaf and Conifer Forests that harbour numerous important flora such as oaks (Qurecus spp.), rhododendrons (Rhododendron spp.) and Himalayan larch (Larix spp.) as well as the globally threatened fauna, including the charismatic snow leopard (Uncia uncia), takin (Budorcis taxicolor), musk deer (Moschus chrysogaster), Red panda (Ailurus fulgens), and several pheasants.
The poverty is widespread among total populace of about 5 million in the SHL and the connections between poverty and environment are many and complex. Therefore the science-based conservation and management of biodiversity would be prerequisite in order to address the prevailing issues. The Himalayan musk deer – the high valued species - is considered to be endangered species and as such can play an instrumental role in the link between poverty and environment. Realizing the crucial lack of information on the status of this species, WWF Nepal envisaged undertaking this study.
The main objective of the proposed study is to establish base line data on the status and distribution Himalayan musk deer using standardized methodology in the Kanchanjunga Conservation Area and the Langtang National Park and its buffer zone areas. This study is expected to undertake following specific tasks:
Desk review of existing data
Assess current population status and habitat utilization pattern
Consultation with major governmental and nongovernmental stakeholders at all levels
Map local distribution and identify the conservation hotspots