Koshi Tappu Wildlife Reserve lies on the floodplains of the Sapta Koshi River in the south-eastern Terai. The reserve was gazetted in 1976 to preserve habitat for the only remaining population of Wild buffalo, Arna (Bubalus arnee). The 176 sq. km. reserve is Nepal’s smallest wildlife reserve. The eastern and western embankments of the Sapta Koshi River define the area. In 1987, Koshi Tappu was declared a Ramsar site, a wetland of international significance. Government of Nepal has declared the buffer zone ( 173.5 sq. km ) surrounding the reserve in 2004.
The Koshi Barrage, the border of east Nepal and India, was completed by the Koshi Project, an undertaking of the government of India, in 1964 to contain the monsoon floods as it became more devastating. The Barrage was also made to irrigate farmlands and thus it created an abundant marsh and littoral habitat making it Nepal’s most important wetland. At an elevation of 75m, the Koshi Barrage is one of the lowest areas in Nepal with 14 species of birds, not found anywhere else in Nepal, recorded here. Because of its great importance as a wetland, the Government of Nepal acceded to the Ramsar Convention in 1987 and thus, Koshi Tappu is included in the list of Wetlands in International Importance.
Because of the open access to the Koshi Barrage area from India, Koshi Tappu Wildlife Reserve is equally threatened with wildlife-related damages. Also, herders from both India and Nepal have set their base over here for cross-breeding their domestic herds with the wild buffalo for vigor and fodder. Today, feral cattle in the Reserve outnumber wild buffaloes. Both feral and wild buffaloes raid crops by wandering as far as 10 kms from the reserve boundary into the farmlands. The high incidents of crop raiding and the ensuing conflict is a cumulative action of over 100 wild buffaloes, some 500 feral water buffaloes and over 7,000 cattle.
The Sapta Koshi is one of the three main tributaries of the Ganges- Rapid and intense flooding of the reserve, occur during the rainy season. Embankments have been constructed parallel to the river to control the flooding.
The reserve experiences three distinct seasons. Summer (February through May) is intensely hot with minimum precipitation. Shade temperatures can reach 40 c. The monsoon starts in late May/early June and lasts until September bringing heavy frequent rainfalls. The rainfall is greatest during July but high humidity and temperatures are experienced throughout the season. Winter (October through January) is characterized by clear skies and moderate temperature, but can still get quite cold.
Flora and Fauna
The vegetation is mainly composed of tall grasslands. Local villagers are permitted to collect thatch grass once a year. These are used for roof thatching and building house walls. There are also small patches of Khair-sissoo scrub forest and deciduous mixed riverine forest.The reserve has important habitat for a variety of wildlife.
The last surviving population of Wild buffalo is found here. The estimated population of wild buffalo is around 159 individuals is dwindling. They are distinguished from domestic buffalo by their much bigger horns. The reserve is also home to around 20 other animal species such as Hog deer ,Wild boar , Spotted deer, Blue bull, and Rock Python.
Around 441 species of birds-many seen now here else in Nepal (14 endemic species)- have been recorded, including 20 duck species , 2 Ibis species, white tailed stonechat , Striated marsh warbler, 30 shore birds, 114 water birds, and the endangered swamp partridge and Bengal florican. The Koshi Barrage is an extremely important resting place for many migratory birds, containing 87 winter and trans-Himalayan migratory species.
The Koshi River is home to 80 species of fish. The endangered Gharial crocodile and Gangetic dolphin have been recorded in the river as well.
During winter, many of the migratory birds can be seen on the Koshi Barrage and on the river channel. Migration usually peaks around mid March. Much wildlife visits these areas during dusk and dawn. The clear skies allow for beautiful sights of several Himalayan peaks including Makalu (8463m), the world’s fifth highest peak.Visitors can arrange elephant ride from Reserve Headquarters.
The best birds in Koshi are: Swamp Francolin, Black-necked Stork, Lesser Adjutant, Comb Duck, Falcated Duck, Spot-billed Duck, Cotton Pigmy Goose, Baer’s Pochard, Bailon’s Crake, Ruddy Crake, Greater Painted Snipe, Pheasant-tailed jacana, Yellow-wattled Lapwing, Indian Courser, Black-bellied Tern, Imperial Eagle, White-tailed Eagle, Lesser Kestrel, Bristle Grassbird, Striated Grassbird etc.
The best time to visit this wonderful wildlife reserve is between October and March. In these months many migratory and local birds can be sighted. They are to be seen at the barrage and many river channels. Himalayan peaks, including Makalu I (8,463m), are a dazzling sight also at this season.
How to get there:
By Air: Kathmandu to Biratnagar. Here there are panoramic views of the Eastern Himalayas, including Mt. Everest.A drive of 1 3/4 hours from Biratnagar brings visitors to the deluxe wildlife camp.
By Bus: A 500 km drive (about 10 hrs.) from Kathmandu to Koshi Tappu Wildlife Reserve. It is beautiful drive and a great way of seeing the countryside and country.
By Rafting: For white water enthusiasts the 9-10 days exciting trip down the Sunkoshi River will end at the very [welcoming and] comfortable camp.