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    Our 2004-2005 winter conservation season in far west Nepal concluded in May of this year with one major project successfully completed. This was the restoration of the abandoned, 500 acre lake of Bhatpuri, in the eastern sector of the White Grass Plains Wildlife Reserve, a joint IWCS-American Himalayan Foundation (AHF) project, with funding from the AHF and field work by IWCS.

Commencing work on the Bhatpuri Lake dam. After dirt is laid and packed a concrete sheath is set on the top. The sheath is reinforced with steel wire netting.

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    Some years ago, when monsoon rains were late,  villagers in the Bhatpuri area cut and opened up two of  the earthen banks of this lake to draw water for their rice fields. Soon after this, when the park was expanded, their village was relocated and they were given new lands outside the park. When they left, however, they did not close up the cuttings they had made and within a year, all of the water had drained out of the lake. When this happened the lake, dried out and, literally, died and as a water source it was soon abandoned by the wildlife that had previously used it to drink.

    The IWCS project of this last winter consisted of rebuilding the cut banks and sealing them, after which it was hoped the June to October monsoon rain would fill the lake.

One of the completed dams. As of September of this year the dam is intact and successfully holding the waters of the rehabilitated lake.

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    The work was carried out in two stages and employed fifty men - all villagers living close to and outside the park. The work commenced at the larger of the two cuttings. To minimize environmental impact, no machinery was used with the exception of a single tractor and trailer which was necessary for hauling building materials-cement, sand, wire, and rocks-to the area; so all work was manual. Earth was carried in baskets from outside of the lake bed area and this was used to rebuild and reseal the first bank. When this was done, the structure was sealed with steel wire reinforced concrete and a spillway was then constructed to allow for excess water over the top of the bank, should the lake overflow when filled. The second  bank was rebuilt and sealed in the same way and all of the work was completed by the end of March.

    A six months (June through November) monitoring program was then set in motion. This consists, simply, of having two experienced men-both of whom  have worked with IWCS for some time-go by bicycle to the lake twice a month to inspect the bank constructions and to report on the water levels in the lake. Armed with this information, they then report to the society’s representative in Mahendranagar, a Mr. Umesh Bista, who in turn uses email to report to the IWCS office in Los Angeles.

Close to Bhatpuri Lake, a pile of rhino droppings.(The One Horned Asian rhino.) Rhino have already started coming back to the lake for water.

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    In June the annual southwest monsoon arrived and rainwater began to slowly fill the lake and we are happy to report that as of September the lake had completely refilled and is now back to its original status. Tiger, elephant, rhino, deer, antelope, wild boar and many smaller animals are once again using the lake as a source of drinking water and many birds have returned, including Adjutant storks, Painted storks, Spoonbills and Common cormorants. The presence of cormorants at the lake is significant. This bird is a fish-eater and so this means that fish have also returned to the lake; how they have done this, after its waterless years during which the ground was baked hard by the summer suns, is something of a mystery.

    We are grateful to the American Himalayan Foundation for grants that supported this work and also to Mr. Phil Fry, of New Zealand, who personally assisted IWCS director Mr. Peter Byrne, in the field.

Peter Byrne and Phil Fry of New Zealand, at Karnali (far west Nepal) after the completion of the Bhatpuri Lake project.

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    Exciting news for IWCS supporters, for this coming winter,  is  the realization of a long-planned project …. a non-profit safari lodge and research facility to be built at the edge of the White Grass Plains in far west Nepal. In meetings recently held in Boston with the esteemed Academy of Applied Science, IWCS Executive Director Peter Byrne and AAS President Mr. Robert Rines finalized plans for the new joint project.

    The original plans for this facility called for a major building complex, with extended guest accommodations, to be run as a commercial safari lodge, but with all of the net profit being directed into wildlife conservation programs in the White Grass Plains. The new plans call for a scaled-down version of the original, with a single building that will contain a research facility and accommodation for visiting scientists and students whose aim will be studies and research within the WGP.

    The site of the new facility will be within an area called Bagh Phanta (The Plain of The Tigers) on the east bank of the Gobrya River and close to the eastern boundary of the WGP. Work will commence with the purchase of land in this area to be followed by the  building of the central structure. Additional buildings will include a garage and a storage shed.  The work, which will be carried out by Mr. Byrne, will commence in the first week of November 2005 and is expected to take about six months, that is to say to the beginning of the rains. It is expected that the facility will be open for visiting researchers next winter, after the monsoon, in November,  2006.

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