At the foot of the Himalayas, Chitwan is one of the few remaining undisturbed vestiges of the 'Terai' region, which formerly extended over the foothills of India and Nepal. It has a particularly rich flora and fauna. One of the last populations of single-horned Asiatic rhinoceros lives in the park, which is also one of the last refuges of the Bengal tiger.
Outstanding Universal Value
Nestled at the foot of the Himalayas, Chitwan has a particularly rich flora and fauna and is home to one of the last populations of single-horned Asiatic rhinoceros and is also one of the last refuges of the Bengal Tiger. Chitwan National Park (CNP), established in 1973, was Nepal’s first National Park. Located in the Southern Central Terai of Nepal, it formerly extended over the foothills, the property covers an area of 93,200 hectares, extends over four districts: Chitwan, Nawalparasi, Parsa and Makwanpur.
The park is the last surviving example of the natural ecosystems of the ‘Terai’ region and covers subtropical lowland, wedged between two east-west river valleys at the base of the Siwalik range of the outer Himalayas. The core area lies between the Narayani (Gandak) and Rapti rivers to the north and the Reu River and Nepal-India international border in the south, over the Sumeswar and Churia hills, and from the Dawney hills west of the Narayani, and borders with Parsa Wildlife Reserve to the east. In 1996, an area of 75,000 hectares consisting of forests and private lands and surrounding the park was declared as a buffer zone. In 2003, Beeshazar and associated lakes within the buffer zone were designated as a wetland of international importance under the Ramsar Convention.
Criteria (vii): The spectacular landscape, covered with lush vegetation and the Himalayas as the backdrop makes the park an area of exceptional natural beauty. The forested hills and changing river landscapes serve to make Chitwan one of the most stunning and attractive parts of Nepal’s lowlands. Situated in a river valley basin and characterized by steep cliffs on the south-facing slopes and a mosaic of riverine forest and grasslands along the river banks of the natural landscape makes the property amongst the most visited tourist destination of its kind in the region. The property includes the Narayani (Gandaki) river, the third-largest river in Nepal which originates in the high Himalayas and drains into the Bay of Bengal providing dramatic river views and scenery as well as the river terraces composed of layers of boulders and gravels.
The property includes two famous religious areas: Bikram Baba at Kasara and Balmiki Ashram in Tribeni, pilgrimage places for Hindus from nearby areas and India. This is also the land of the indigenous Tharu community who have inhabited the area for centuries and are well known for their unique cultural practices.
Criteria (ix): Constituting the largest and least disturbed example of sal forest and associated communities, Chitwan National Park is an outstanding example of biological evolution with a unique assemblage of native flora and fauna from the Siwalik and inner Terai ecosystems. The property includes the fragile Siwalik-hill ecosystem, covering some of the youngest examples of this as well as alluvial flood plains, representing examples of ongoing geological processes. The property is the last major surviving example of the natural ecosystems of the Terai and has witnessed minimal human impacts from the traditional resource dependency of people, particularly the aboriginal Tharu community living in and around the park.
Criteria (x): The combination of alluvial flood plains and riverine forest provides an excellent habitat for the Great One-horned Rhinoceros and the property is home for the second largest population of this species in the world. It is also prime habitat for the Bengal Tiger and supports a viable source population of this endangered species. Exceptionally high in species diversity, the park harbours 31% of mammals, 61% of birds, 34% of amphibians and reptiles, and 65% of fishes recorded in Nepal. Additionally, the park is famous for having one of the highest concentrations of birds in the world (over 350 species) and is recognized as one of the worlds’ biodiversity hotspots as designated by Conservation International and falls amongst WWFs’ 200 Global Eco-regions.
The property adequately incorporates the representative biodiversity of the central Terai-Siwalik ecosystem and in conjunction with the adjacent Parsa Wildlife Reserve constitutes the largest and least disturbed example of sal forest and associated communities of the Terai. The park also protects the catchment of the river system within the park and the major ecosystems included are Siwalik, sub-tropical deciduous forest, riverine and grassland ecosystems. The Park boundary is well defined. The ecological integrity of the park is further enhanced by the adjoining Parsa Wildlife Reserve to its eastern boundary and the designation of a buffer zone around the Park that is not part of the inscribed World Heritage Site but provides additional protection and important habitats.
The World Heritage values of the Park have been enhanced as the population of Greater One-horned Rhinoceros and Bengal Tiger have increased (Rhinoceros - around 300 in the 1980s to 503 in 2011 and Tigers 40 breeding adults in the 1980s to 125 breeding adults in 2010). While no major changes in the natural ecosystem have been observed in the recent years the grasslands and riverine habitats of the park have been encroached by invasive species such as Mikania macrantha.
Poaching of endangered one horned rhinoceros for illegal trade of its horn is one pressing threat faced by the park authority, despite the tremendous efforts towards Park Protection. Illegal trade in tiger parts and timber theft are also threats with the potential to impact on the integrity of the property. The traditional dependency of local people on forest resources is well controlled and has not been seen to impact negatively on the property. Human-wildlife conflict remains an important issue and threat that has been addressed through compensation schemes and other activities as part of the implementation of the buffer zone program.
Protection and management requirements
Chitwan National Park has a long history of protection dating back to the early 1800s. It has been designated and legally protected under the National Parks and Wildlife Conservation Act, 1973. The Nepalese Army has been deployed for park protection since 1975. In addition, Chitwan National Park Regulation, 1974 and Buffer Zone Management Regulation, 1996 adequately ensure the protection of natural resources and people’s participation in conservation as well as socio-economic benefits to people living in the buffer zone. This makes Chitwan National Park an outstanding example of Government-Community partnership in biodiversity conservation.
The management of the property is of a high standard and the Government of Nepal has demonstrated that it recognizes the value of the park by investing significant resources in its management. Management activities have been guided by the Management Plan, which should undergo regular updating and revision to ensure key management issues are being addressed sufficiently. The first five year Management Plan (1975-1979) for CNP was prepared in 1974 with an updated plan for 2001-2005 expanded to include CNP and its Buffer Zone along with the provision of three management zones. A subsequent plan covering 2006-2011 covers the Park and the Buffer Zone and streamlines the conservation and management of the property. The maintenance of the long-term integrity of the park will be ensured through continuation of the existing protection strategy with need-based enhancement as well as maintaining intact wildlife habitat through science-based management. Effective implementation of the buffer zone program will continue to address the issues regarding human-wildlife conflicts.
The aquatic ecosystem of the park has been threatened by pollution from point and non-point sources including developments in close proximity to Narayani River. This pollution needs to be controlled with the coordinated efforts of all the stakeholders. The need to maintain the delicate balance between conservation and the basic requirements of people living around the park remains a main concern of the management authority. The need to address issues related to regulation of increasing traffic volume at Kasara bridge, construction of a bridge at Reu River and the underground electricity transmission line for the people living in Madi valley are also concerns.
High visitation and the maintenance of adequate facilities remain an ongoing management issue. As one of the most popular tourist sites in Nepal, due to the ease of wildlife viewing and spectacular scenery and the economic benefit of this is significant. Facilities are a model of appropriate park accommodation with efforts continuing to ensure this is maintained. Poaching of wildlife and vegetation remains an important issue and the most significant threat too many of the species and populations harboured within the park. Ongoing efforts to tackle this problem are required despite already significant attempts to enforce regulations and prevent poaching.
Royal Chitwan National Park lies in the lowlands or Inner Terai of southern central Nepal on the international border with India. The park covers 932 km2 of subtropical lowland, wedged between two east-west river valleys at the base of the Siwalik range of the outer Himalayas.
Chitwan is dominated by almost monotypic stands of sal forest which occupy 60% of the total area and is a remnant of the lowland Terai forest which once stretched across the foothills of the Himalayas through India and Nepal. Riverine forest and grasslands form a mosaic along the river banks are maintained by seasonal flooding. On the hills are pines and scattered palms, and moister slopes support bamboos.
Chitwan is situated in a river valley basin or dun, along the flood plains of the Rapti, Reu and Narayani rivers. The Narayani is also called the Gandaki and is the third-largest river in Nepal. It originates in the high Himalaya and, drains into the Bay of Bengal. The Siwaliks show a distinctive fault pattern that has produced steep cliffs on the south-facing slopes, where vegetation cover is poorer than the northern slopes. The flood plains comprise a series of ascending alluvial terraces laid down by the rivers and subsequently raised by Himalayan uplift. The terraces are composed of layers of boulders and gravels set in a fine silty matrix.
The climax vegetation of the Inner Terai is sal forest, which covers some 60% of the park. However, floods, fires and riverine erosion combine to make a continually changing mosaic of grasslands and riverine forests in various stages of succession. Purest stands of sal occur on better drained ground such as the lowlands around Kasra in the centre of the park. Elsewhere, sal is intermingled with chir pine along the southern face of the Churia Hills and with tree species. Creepers are common. The under-storey is scant with the exception of grasses.
The park contains the last Nepalese population (estimated at 400) of the endangered great one-horned Asian rhinoceros which is the second largest concentration of this species to occur after Kaziranga National Park in India. Royal Chitwan is also one of the last strongholds of the Royal Bengal tiger. Other threatened mammals occurring in the park include leopard, wild dog, sloth bear and gaur. Other mammals include sambar, chital, hog deer, barking deer, wild pig, monkeys, otter, porcupine, yellow-throated marten, civet, fishing cat, jungle cat, jackal, striped hyena and Indian fox. Aquatic species include the gangetic dolphin, the mugger crocodile and the endangered gharial.
Prior to its re-introduction to Royal Bardia National Park in 1986, the park contained the last Nepalese population of the Indian rhinoceros. Tiger is present and has been the subject of a long-term study begun in 1974. Over 350 bird species are reported. Himalayan grey-headed fishing eagle and white-back vulture. Ruddy shelduck and bar-headed goose winter on the rivers. The threatened Indian python also occurs within the park, and some 99 fish species inhabit the rivers and oxbow lakes. Source: UNESCO/CLT/WHC
Chitwan was declared a national park in 1973, following approval by the late King Mahendra in December 1970. The bye-laws (Royal Chitwan National Park Regulations) were introduced on 4 March 1974. Substantial additions were made to the park in 1977 and the adjacent Pars a wildlife Reserve was established in 1984. The habitat had been well protected as a royal hunting reserve from 1846 to 1951 during the Rana regime. An area south of the Rapti River was first proposed as a rhinoceros sanctuary in 1958 (Gee, 1959), demarcated in 1963 (Gee, 1963; Willan, 1965) and later incorporated into the national park. Chitwan was designated as a World Heritage site in November 1984. Source: Advisory Body Evaluation