THE IWCS QUARTERLY NEWSLETTER. MAY-AUGUST 2002
In February, 2002, the society was given a generous grant of $3000 by the American Himalayan Foundation, for a waterhole project in the White Grass Plains Wildlife Reserve (the WGP), in south west Nepal, in an area that contains Nilghai antelope (Boselaphus tragocamelus) also known as the Blue Bull. For (local) administrative purposes, the grant was transferred by IWCS, without fees, to the Nepal based and registered Institute for Nature Conservation and Rural Development.
The WGP, a protected, pristine, 200,000 acre area of forest, grassland and wetland that is home to elephant, rhino, tiger, leopard, wild boar, crocodile, deer and many smaller animals and birds, is perennially short of water for its wildlife. Within the park are a dozen, very shallow rivers. These fill up during the monsoon (June through October.) But then, in the dry weather (November through May), they lose all of their water to ground saturation and evaporation; when this happens, the animals that use them have to find drinking water elsewhere, sometimes forcing them to travel considerable distances.
The waterhole project plan involved taking two sections of one of these rivers and turning them into water catchment areas, by widening and cleaning them (of debris, rocks, dead logs etc), and then sealing them off with an earth dam, topped with a spillway. A professional hydrologist, recruited from Katmandu to examine the design, estimated that each section, when full, would, after allowing for evaporation and ground saturation, hold sufficient water to last right through the dry weather and until the monsoon of the following year.
IWCS Executive Director Peter Byrne, who designed the project, went to Nepal in early March to supervise the operation and by mid April, working with two, twenty-five man teams, the construction of both water catchments had been completed. To avoid the impact of heavy machinery on the delicate environment on the park, all work was done by hand. The last phase of the project consisted of setting up large white cotton sheets on poles at each end of the two dams, to deter elephants and rhino from walking on them and damaging them.
According to reports from our IWCS field monitoring team in the WGP, -carrying out a four-times-monthly inspection of the new catchments-as of July, monsoon rain water has filled both, each with approximately 100,000 gallons of water. Nilghai and other animals have now started using them and they should be able to depend on them, as a water source, in this previously dry area, right through until the next monsoon of 2003 and after that, hopefully, for many years.
Two new projects are planned for November and December of this coming winter. The first, to be called The Hidden Springs Project, involves the renovation of an ancient spring that lies deep in the forests that border the grasslands of the reserve. Here there is a powerful spring of fresh, clean water, flowing into a large pool, one that should be ideal for animals to use for drinking. But no animals come to it because the banks of the pool are too high to allow easy and safe access and also because its waters are almost totally obstructed with jungle debris, mainly dead, fallen trees. The project plan, which will employ fifty men for three weeks, is to completely clean out the pool and then cut dirt walkways in the banks that will allow wildlife-especially young animals-safe and easy access to the waters of the pool.
The second project is called The Ground Water Project and its purpose is to find ground water in some of the very dry areas of the park (mainly its center and north eastern areas) and open it up to create perennial pools for wildlife usage. Again, fifty men will be required for three to four weeks. Peter Byrne will go to Nepal in October, to supervise and operate both projects; he will report on the work in the next newsletter.
Meanwhile, the search continues for financial sponsorship of the new, White Grass Plains Safari Lodge-to be built under the auspices of IWCS-a not-for-profit enterprise that will be a first for Asia and, when it is completed, one of only two in the world. Hopefully, in our next newsletter, we will have good news to report on the availability of funding for this singularly unique, praiseworthy and meaningful venture.
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