Himalayan Mountain Conservation in Nepal
- Placement location: Ghandruk, Annapurna mountain range
- Role: To preserve local biodiversity and conduct wildlife research
- Requirements: None. Anyone aged 16 and older can join
- Main Research Focus: Conservation of the common leopard, leopard cat, barking deer, Asiatic bear, red panda, reptiles, amphibians, numerous bird species, and rhododendron forests
- Local Environment: Himalayan Mountains (2000m altitude)
- Accommodation: Family-run volunteer hostel
- Length of placement: From 2 weeks
- Start dates: Flexible
Volunteers with an interest in helping to preserve the environment and contributing to important wildlife research can make a significant impact on Projects Abroad’s Himalayan Mountain Conservation Project in Nepal. This project is located in the spectacular Annapurna Mountain range in the Himalayas, where Projects Abroad works closely with a national conservation organization, Annapurna Conservation Area Project (ACAP).
The ACAP is a government entity which helps to preserve and enhance biodiversity in the area, and we work with them on all aspects of protecting the area. The Annapurna area is home to a diverse range of wildlife such as the common leopard, leopard cat, Himalayan black bear, barking deer, and several bird species including numerous endangered species of vultures.
No previous experience is needed to take part in this project. Volunteers are welcome on a gap year, a career break, for university research, or as part of a volunteer vacation. Please note that the project involves a lot of walking and hiking, so a reasonable level of physical fitness is an advantage.
Your Role on the Conservation & Environment Project in Nepal
Volunteers on this project can get involved in a wide variety of activities, such as:
- Wildlife Research: As with any conservation area it is vital to monitor the populations of wild animals. Falling populations of wild animals or population shifts where certain species begin to dominate an ecosystem are indicators that an area is under pressure from human activity. We consider it fundamental to gather this information and create a strong database which we can use in designing conservation strategies. Our surveying techniques include sensor camera traps, walking surveys, and scat identification.
- Endangered Species: We place a strong emphasis on researching threatened and endangered species. Nepal is home to some of the rarest and most elusive animals on the planet and we have already caught images of leopards, bears, and civets on our cameras.
- Bird Surveys: Nepal is home to 867 species of birds, a staggering 8% of the world’s total and we are committed to researching these species. 35 of these species are globally threatened and we use the MacKinnon List technique to study them. To date we have identified over 200 species in the area and have published research papers on rare species such as the Pied Thrush.
- Butterfly Project: Lepidotera (butterflies and moths) are the second most diverse group of insects on the planet. We are currently creating an inventory of species and studying which species are resident and which migratory to the area around Ghandruk.
- Herpetology Study: While it is a mountainous area, the Annapurna range is home to 40 species of reptile and 23 species of amphibian. Using night walks and opportunistic encounters we are compiling a list for the area around Ghandruk and researching which habitats suit which species.
- Rhododendron Regeneration Survey: This study will attempt to determine whether the claim that the area hosts the largest rhododendron forest in the world is true. You will measure species composition and look into how anthropogenic effects may be impacting regeneration of the forest.
- Conservation Education: Running workshops and events in the community. This work often depends on your interests and length of stay. On certain occasions we also arrange anti-poaching education in the village.
- Weather Station: Our volunteers collect temperate, humidity, and rainfall data daily as there is no weather station in the area.
- Community Activities: Volunteers learn about and participate in local festivals.
- Community Clean-ups: While these activities are not taking place at the moment, this is something important that we plan to do in the future. This activity will be crucial for the area. With the help of the local community, we plan to clean the river, forest, and the village. We hope that these clean ups will teach the locals about the importance of recycling rubbish (glasses, plastic bottles) and the harmful effect of pollution in natural habitats.
All volunteers undergo training and a comprehensive induction in Pokhara by Projects Abroad staff. This ensures that each volunteer understands what each project involves and its contribution to the management of the area. Each program contributes to the overall aim of preserving and enhancing biodiversity in the region.
Given the variation in Nepal’s climate – with the wet season from June to September and the dry season from October to June – these activities may not be possible at all times. Work on the projects will be arranged depending on the season and the weather conditions.
The Goals of the Conservation & Environment Project in Nepal
The primary goal of the Annapurna Conservation Project is to preserve and enhance the natural resources within the area, along with aiding social development in Ghandruk. The area is rich in biodiversity and features 1,233 species of flowering plants, 102 mammals, 488 birds, 40 reptiles, and 23 amphibians.
Nepal’s geography and biodiversity is unique. Its habitats are diverse and range from tropical forests to high altitude mountainous areas. With Nepal being home to the world’s largest mountain, Mount Everest, and having over 240 peaks over 20,000 feet, many of the conservation efforts are being focused within these areas. Due to the pressures of human encroachment, climate change, and loss of habitat these areas are being continuously threatened causing loss of biodiversity and environmental degradation.
You can read more detailed information about the aims of the project in our Nepal Conservation Management Plan.
Accommodation and Food in Nepal
Due to the sheer size of the management area, volunteers will stay in a family-run hostel in Ghandruk, located about 3 hours away from Pokhara. The facilities will be very basic.
Living in Ghandruk will give you a unique cultural experience and meals will be provided at the hostel each day. As all Conservation volunteers live in the same hostel there will always be other people around to work and socialize with.
Pokhara is the third largest city in Nepal and one of the most popular destinations among trekkers and tourists looking for an adventure in the Himalayas. It also offers a more tranquil and relaxed urban environment than Kathmandu.
You can join the Conservation project in Nepal for two weeks if you don't have time to join us for four weeks or more. Please be aware that it can take up to three days travelling to get to and from the Conservation project base. If you join us for three weeks you will gain a valuable cultural insight and work intensely on the project, however you may not be able to make the same impact as someone volunteering for a longer period.