LOCATION: Dakshinkali, Kathmandu Valley, Nepal

With our partner, Nature Conservation and Study Centre, we are helping to protect wildlife in the Kathmandu Valley. The valley at one time was filled with forests and fertile lands. In the last 50 years, it has undergone rapid urbanization and is the home of multiple cities and five million people. Urbanization has led to a significant decline in forest areas and fragmentation of many habitats, resulting in the loss of wildlife and biodiversity.

Although, community forestry in Nepal has been very successful, increasing forest cover nationally from 26% in the 1970s to 46% now, it has not as successfully helped to conserve wildlife. Communities often have the attitude that wildlife belongs in national parks and wildlife sanctuaries and the government is responsible for it.  

Our project in Dakshinkali began in the best way possible, when a community member from Kopu village, which manages Gopaleshwor Community Forest, approached our team. People in the area had been reporting leopard sightings in recent years, often near their homes, along with instances of livestock and pet dog predation. In their efforts to prevent future conflicts and protect biodiversity, they reached out to us for assistance. 

In August 2022, we convened a formal meeting with the ward executive committee, who are the locally-elected political leaders, and community forest members to discuss various activities, including capacity building for wildlife monitoring. During this meeting, we collectively agreed to initiate community conservation and citizen science practices with the following set of activities for one year dependent up on funding, which was procured after a year from the Returned Peace Corps Volunteers (RPCV) group of Madison, WI.

Activity 1: Project Introduction Workshop

On September 29, 2023, we held an introductory meeting with the local community at the Dakshinkali Municipality, Ward-7 office, marking the beginning of a collaborative journey.

The meeting served as a platform to introduce ourselves and our project. We shared examples of successful community conservation projects around the world, and presented a detailed overview of our project’s activities, outlining our goals and planned actions. This transparent communication was aimed at fostering understanding and trust among the community members.

An essential aspect of the meeting was gathering valuable input from the community itself. We had an open discussion where community members shared their perspectives, concerns, and suggestions. The workshop concluded with a general agreement on the project direction and timeline as well as shared roles and responsibilities. 

Watch a video created by CC’s Executive Director, Dr. Teri Allendorf, about the first workshop.

Activity 2: Wildlife Monitoring Training

On February 2, 2024, we held a camera trap training session in Dakshinkali for 24 individuals residing near the Gopaleshwor Community Forest. This training aimed to equip community members with the knowledge and skills to actively participate in biodiversity monitoring and conservation efforts.

The session began with a presentation on the proper use of camera traps, covering aspects like placement, settings, and data collection followed by a demonstration session. Participants actively engaged in hands-on practice, deploying camera traps themselves in small groups. This practical experience solidified their understanding and fostered confidence in using this crucial tool.

Activity 3: Camera Trap Survey of Mammals

The field survey began on January 28, 2024, and continued through February, concluding on March 2, 2024. Over the course of this month-long study, camera trap units were strategically placed across 10 sites within the 81.90-hectare forest area. Each camera was deployed for a minimum of 6 days and a maximum of 14 days. The elevation of the community forest ranged approximately between 1,350-1,530m.

Throughout the survey, representatives from the Gopaleshwor Community Forest User Group provided invaluable assistance by guiding us in site selection and camera trap unit placement.

Our objective was to maximize the number of recorded species, so sites were selected opportunistically based on local knowledge on wildlife habitats and by observing animal signs.

The key goals were to:

  1. Gather wildlife data: To gain an understanding of wildlife presence, distribution, and activity in the forest.
  2. Identify conservation priorities: Use the collected data to inform targeted conservation actions and management strategies.
  3. Foster community engagement: Actively involve the local community in biodiversity monitoring and conservation efforts, promoting a sense of ownership and responsibility.

Mammals Recorded in Gopaleshwor Community Forest

The primary aim of the survey was to study the presence of leopards in the forest along with other mammals. Over the course of a month, we documented ten mammal species – Leopard, Barking deer, Himalayan crestless porcupine, Jungle cat, Large Indian civet, Leopard cat, Rhesus macaque, Masked palm civet, Small Indian mongoose, and Yellow-throated marten in the community forest. Of these records, the rhesus macaque was documented through live sightings and photography, while the presence of mongoose was reported by a local resident with photograph record from 2023. The rest were recorded in our camera traps. 

Out of our 10 camera trap sites, all but one recorded mammal activity. One site exclusively captured bird and human activity. The most frequently recorded species was the barking deer.

The species we found were:

1. Leopard (Panthera pardus)

Leopards, one of the biggest wild cats in the world, are widely distributed across Nepal. Locally known as chituwa, this carnivore has a very flexible diet ranging from small rodents to large herbivores. They live in a variety of habitats including forest, shrubland, grassland, desert, and rocky areas. Leopards are often subject to scrutiny due to their conservation concerns, human-wildlife conflict, ecological roles, and poaching and illegal trade concerns.

Rapid urbanization in recent decades has led to the encroachment and fragmentation of leopard habitats by human settlements and infrastructure. Consequently, conflicts involving livestock and people have arisen, contributing to their notoriety. Unlike herbivores and small carnivores, leopards are often feared by the general populace.

Assessing leopard behavior and habitat preferences is crucial for promoting safe coexistence. By implementing smart plans and strategies in certain areas, we can alleviate fears and ensure peaceful cohabitation.

During our study, we identified at least two adult leopards based on distinct coat patterns and sizes. Morphological features suggest that they are an adult female and male with overlapping territories, as confirmed by images captured at multiple camera trap sites.

Leopard signs were frequently observed, mostly in the form of tracks along dusty roads, and possible scats. We also observed a fresh kill – carcass of a calf in one of our camera trap sites, which according to our local informant was abandoned by the owner.

Additional data from surrounding forest regions is necessary before drawing conclusions regarding the spatial movement patterns and home range of these individuals. However, given the relatively small size of the community forest and the known home range of adult leopards, it can be inferred that the Gopaleshwor Community Forest likely represents only a fraction of the total home range.

While we observed human disturbance and resource extraction in the forest, the presence of several other small mammals, including barking deer, a preferred prey species, suggests prey is available in the forest. Any further determination would require a more thorough systematic study.

Watch a leopard eating a calf carcass. Farmers will sometimes leave male calves in the forest because they aren’t of value to them. They are easy prey for leopards. We aren’t sure how often this happens in Nepal, but you can read about this occurring across the border in India here.
2. Barking Deer (Muntiacus vaginalis)

Barking deer, locally known as ratuwa in Nepal, is a widespread species known to occur up to an elevation of 3,500m. These herbivores are found in forests, shrublands, and grasslands and are known to feed on young grass, leaves, and fallen fruits. They are also presumed to be a major dispersal agent of fruit-producing plants throughout their range (Timmins, R.J. et al. 2023). During our camera trap survey, these were the most frequently recorded species. Of the 10 camera traps, nine had recorded one or more mammals, and of those nine cameras sites, barking deer was recorded in seven of them.

3. Himalayan Crestless Porcupine (Hystrix brachyura)

They are locally known as dumsi or Malaya dumsi and are found in forests, shrublands and grasslands at elevations up to 1,500m. They live in dens and burrows and are primarily herbivores feeding on roots, tubers, leaves, and fruits. We obtained only one capture of this species in one of our ten sites. Although the image was not clear, we relied on past sightings by locals, habitat suitability assessments, literature review, and identification of the quills in our photo to confirm the species.

4. Jungle Cat (Felis chaus)

Commonly known as ban biralo in Nepal, they are found in forests, shrublands, grasslands, and wetlands and are known to be seen nearby rural human settlements. They are found across the country up to an elevation of 4,000m in Himalayan foothills (Jnawali et al. 2011).

5. Large Indian Civet (Viverra zibetha)

Locally known as thulo nirbiralo in Nepal, this species is widely distributed across the country (Jnawali et al. 2011). They occur in forests, scrublands, and grasslands and have an omnivorous diet, feeding on a wide range of small animals, birds, amphibians, insects, fruits, etc.

6. Leopard Cat (Prionailurus bengalensis)

The mainland leopard cat, locally known as charibagh in Nepal, is widely distributed across the country, with confirmed study reports from 31 out of 77 districts (Ghimirey, Y. et al. 2023). They are found in forests, shrublands, and grasslands and primarily feed on rodents and birds. Their home range varies from 1.5 to 12.4 km2 (Chen et al. 2016), and they have been recorded at elevations up to 4,474m (Thapa et al. 2013).

7. Masked Palm Civet (Paguma larvata)

Locally known as gajale nirbiralo, this species is found in the forests and shrublands across Nepal up to elevations of 2,200m. They are omnivores and mainly feed on fruits compared to other species of civets (Jnawali et al. 2011).

8. Mongoose (Herpestes sp.

Mongoose species, commonly referred to as nyaurimusa in Nepali, were not directly recorded during our survey. A local resident reported sightings with photographic evidence from 2023 near their home in the forest vicinity. Although the genus was identified as mongoose, the species could not be positively determined due to the lack of photo clarity.

9. Rhesus Macaque (Macaca mulatta)

Commonly known as rato bandar in Nepali, this species occurs in forests, scrublands, mangroves, cultivated fields, and is very adaptable to human settlement areas (Jnawali et al. 2011). They naturally feed on fruits, seeds, roots, leaves, flowers, shoots, etc. and are widely distributed across Nepal up to elevations of 2440m. During our month-long survey, we observed this species on a few occasions, mostly in the agricultural fields near the forest edge, often moving in groups. The largest group observed was a troop of 25-30 individuals. 

10. Yellow-throated Marten (Martes flavigula)

Known locally as malsapro in Nepali, this highly adaptable omnivorous species is commonly found in dense forests, shrublands, and riverine areas. They primarily feed on small animals, birds, bees, eggs, and fruits, and have been recorded across Nepal at elevations of up to 3254m (Jnawali et al., 2011). During our study, we observed them live moving in a pair near Kopu village, and later captured them on our camera traps.

Activity 4. Result Sharing Workshop

On April 1, 2024, we organized a result sharing workshop for community members and representatives to share the output of the project. During the workshop, we presented the checklist and images of mammals recorded in Gopaleshwor Community Forest, along with the study outcomes and our recommendations. Additionally, we provided them with a comprehensive report detailing our findings.

Outcomes and Recommendations

Our month-long study revealed that Gopaleshwor Community Forest is an important habitat for wildlife. In addition to the 10 species of mammals identified during our study, casual observations revealed over 40 species of birds in the forest vicinity. We believe that conducting a more long-term study across multiple seasons could unveil some of the more elusive mammal species present in the mid-hills of Nepal. 

Based on the study outcomes and our observations, we made the following recommendations for forest management, wildlife management, and strengthening the relationship between the local government and the community forest groups.

Forest management:

  1. Implement Sustainable Harvesting Practices: Encourage forest-users to adopt sustainable harvesting methods with clear guidelines aimed at meeting local community needs while minimizing disturbance to the forest.
  2. Manage Feral Cattle: Proper management of feral cattle is essential to prevent them from entering forest areas, as wild predators can become habituated to this type of prey.

Wildlife management:

  1. Monitor Wildlife Diversity and Populations: Establish long-term wildlife monitoring programs, such as camera trapping surveys, to assess mammal populations. This will aid in effective conservation and management, as well as in controlling human-wildlife conflict scenarios.

Institutional relationships:

  1. Strengthen Institutional Linkages: The collaboration between the local government and forest user groups is essential to raise public awareness about wildlife. Areas they can collaborate on include preventing human-wildlife conflicts, promoting the use of non-lethal methods to deter wildlife from farmlands, ensuring proper lighting on rural roads to enhance visibility and prevent sudden wildlife encounters, avoiding accidental forest fires, and implementing biodiversity education programs in schools for children.


Inspired by the community’s curiosity, we have embarked on a transformative journey toward fostering coexistence with wildlife in the Gopaleshwor Community Forest. From the initial discussions to the implementation of diverse activities, our collaborative efforts with local stakeholders have borne fruit. Our project has heightened awareness and also empowered the community. However, it’s crucial to also acknowledge the hurdles. One such challenge is the issue of community engagement, exacerbated by the urbanization trend that can make forest issues less interesting and/or relevant to people. 

Furthermore, while our project has made significant strides within the confines of Kopu village and the Gopaleshwor Community Forest, it’s imperative to recognize the broader context of the surrounding forest system. Expanding our project area to encompass neighboring communities and forest regions holds immense potential for bolstering support and accelerating the momentum of community interest and participation. By broadening our reach, we can tap into a wider pool of local knowledge, resources, and enthusiasm, thereby fostering a more robust network of conservation-minded individuals united in their commitment to safeguarding biodiversity.


We want to thank RPCVs of Wisconsin-Madison and Community Conservation Inc. for the financial support which played a crucial role in getting our project off the ground. We would also like to express our appreciation to our primary project partners: Dakshinkali Municipality, Ward-7, Gopaleshwor Community Forest User Group, and the local community for their enthusiastic participation and support throughout the project. We also want to thank the Department of Forests and Soil Conservation (DoFSC) and the Sub-division Forest Office, Dakshinkali, for their valuable assistance.