Tribhuvan University botany professor Bharat Babu Shrestha has claimed that climate change has allowed “aliens” that endanger local wildlife to reside in Chitwan National Park in Nepal.
“The changing climate appears to be conducive for invasive alien plants to grow faster,” Shrestha said.
The invasive plants have managed to almost take over the national park’s wetlands and grassland, which is around 370 square miles, located in Nepal’s southern plains.
“Like never before, the park faces habitat loss at an alarming rate,” said Ananath Baral, chief conservation officer at Chitwan. “We are concerned about the wildlife’s future.”
“In the past decade, the park’s grasslands have been heavily invaded by plants such as feverfew, lantana, a vine known as “mile-a-minute” weed – and Siam weed, considered one of the world’s most problematic invaders,” Baral said.
He continued, in some parts of the park, the grass which is a staple plant for the park’s wildlife, including the one-horned rhino, deer, and antelope, “has partially or totally disappeared.” This is a huge concern for the sustainability of the park’s unique wildlife.
“Over one-third of the tourists who come to Nepal to visit protected areas want to come here for wildlife sightseeing and adventurous jungle safaris,” Baral said.
If the park’s animals and the habitat they need are not protected adequately, “they will stop coming”, he warned.