Land and Resources, Plant and Animal Life
Ganges River dolphin, sloth bear, Tarai, Wild goats, snow line
Forests occupy 27 percent of Nepalís land area. The Tarai supports extensive hardwood and bamboo forests in areas not cleared for agriculture or resettlement. On the lower slopes of the mountains, pines flourish amid oaks and wildflowers. Firs and shrubs thrive in the higher regions, most notably the tree rhododendron, Nepalís national flower, which produces beautiful red and pink blooms from March to April. Smaller plants, such as mosses and grasses, grow at elevations above 3,700 m (12,000 ft). Above the snow line of the Great Himalayas (higher than about 4,300 m/about 15,000 ft) no vegetation grows.
Deforestation is a major problem in Nepal. The country lost half its forests between 1950 and 1980 because of increased demand for fodder, fuelwood, and land for agriculture and settlement. Much of the deforestation has taken place in the Tarai, although the Middle and Great Himalayan regions have also experienced serious deforestation. With the assistance of the United States and international agencies, Nepal has embarked on several programs to extend and restore its forest cover.
The wildlife of the Tarai includes tigers, leopards, deer, and elephants. The Royal Chitwan National Park, located in the Tarai, was set aside to house and protect endangered wildlife such as the rhinoceros, tiger, sloth bear, gaur (a large species of ox), and Ganges River dolphin. Wild goats, sheep, and wolves live at higher elevations, and yak are herded by local people.
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