Makalu-Barun National Park
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Makalu Barun National Park is the eighth national park in the Himalayas of Nepal and was established in 1992 as eastern extension of the Sagarmatha National Park. Covering an area of 1,500 km2 (580 sq mi) in the districts of Solukhumbu and Sankhuwasabha it is the world's only protected area with an elevation gain of more than 8,000 m (26,000 ft) enclosing tropical forest as well as snow-capped peaks.
The northern border of the national park coincides with the international border to the Tibet Autonomous Region. Adjacent to the southern and southeastern border is the bufferzone Makalu Barun Conservation Area covering an area of 830 km2 (320 sq mi).
The rugged summits of Makalu, with 8,463 m (27,766 ft) the fifth highest mountain of the world, Chamalang (7,319 m (24,012 ft)), Baruntse (7,129 m (23,389 ft)) and Mera (6,654 m (21,831 ft)) are included in the national park. The protected area extends to about 66 km (41 mi) from west to east and to about 44 km (27 mi) from north to south. From the Arun river valley in the southeast, located at 344–377 m (1,129–1,237 ft) above sea level, elevation gains about 8,025 m (26,329 ft) to the peak of Makalu.
The idea of preserving the unique biological and cultural features of the Makalu Barun area was already conceived in the mid-1980s. The management plans accomplished in 1990 also addressed the issue of protecting the upper watershed of the Arun River. In 1991 Makalu Barun National Park was gazetted. When in 1999 the bufferzone was declared, the park was the first to include an adjacent inhabited conservation area. About 35,000 people reside in 12 Village Development Committees, who are primarily subsistence farmers of Sherpa, Rai, Gurung, Tamang, Magar, Newar, Brahmin and Chhetri ethnic groups.
Both national park and conservation area are administered by the Department of National Parks and Wildlife Conservation. An innovative park management approach encourages local people to become actively involved in conserving their rich cultural heritage and protecting forests and natural resources, upon which their lives depend.
The inaccessible valleys of the Barun River, glacier-fed tributary to the Arun River, and of its tributary Saldima, treasure some of the last remaining pristine forests and alpine meadows. They have been designated as a Strict Nature Reserve, the first in Nepal, in order to protect natural ecosystems and processes in an undisturbed state for scientific study, environmental monitoring, education and the maintenance of genetic resources.
The park is located in the eastern climatic zone of the Himalayas, where monsoon already starts in June and eases off in late September. During these months about 70% of the annual precipitation of 4,000 mm (160 in) falls. The first monsoon clouds reach the area already in April. Temperatures vary greatly due to the extreme difference in altitude in the entire area. Lower elevations are temperate throughout winter and hot during April and May.
The Makalu Barun National Park exhibits a high diversity of forest types that are characteristic for the Eastern Himalayas, ranging from near-tropical dipterocarp monsoon forest on 400 m (1,300 ft) altitude to subalpine conifer stands on 4,000 m (13,000 ft) altitude. Forest aspects vary depending on seasonal moisture availability, temperature and snow cover at different elevations and slopes. Forests below 2,000 m (6,600 ft) are strongly affected by subsistence agriculture, so that only some ecologically significant stands remain there. Above 2,000 m (6,600 ft) forests are usually extensive since the cool, humid climate suppresses agricultural activity. Forests span five bioclimatic zones:
On alpine pastures above 4,000 m (13,000 ft) - Eastern Himalayan alpine shrub and meadows - the religiously important dwarf rhododendron and juniper, aromatic herbs and delicate wildflowers prosper.
Botanists recorded 3,128 species of flowering plants, including 25 of Nepal's 30 varieties of rhododendron, 48 primroses, 47 orchids, 19 bamboos, 15 oaks, 86 fodder trees and 67 economically valuable aromatic and medicinal plants.
The protected area is habitat for a wide diversity of faunal species. There are 315 species of butterflies, 43 species of reptile and 16 species of amphibians. 78 species of fish inhabit the many ponds, lakes and rivers.Ornithologists have recorded 440 bird species, ranging from eagles and other raptors to white-necked storks and brilliantly colored sunbirds. The 16 rare or protected bird species include the rose-ringed parakeet, Blyth’s kingfisher, deep-blue kingfisher, blue-naped pitta, pale blue flycatcher, Sultan tit, silver-eared mesia and the white-naped yuhina.
The 88 species of mammals include snow leopard, leopard, clouded leopard, jungle cat, leopard cat, jackal, Himalayan Wolf, red fox, red panda, black bear, Hanuman langur, Assam macaque, Himalayan tahr, Himalayan goral, muntjak, musk deer, barking deer, Himalayan serow, wild boar, flying squirrel, otters, spotted linsang, weasel and marmot. In May 2009 zoologists obtained the first image of an Asian golden cat at an altitude of 2517 m.
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