A Walk on the WWF Side


A Tamang woman and child from the hilltop village of Thulo Syabru, Langtang Valley

In 2009 I had a great 3 week assignment for the WWF (World Wide Fund for Nature) in Nepal. The aim of this was to highlight WWF’s work with Nepalese communities as they confront the very real impacts of climate change – which threatens people and wildlife alike – while coping with poverty and minimal resources. Beyond the extensive specifics of the brief was a further entreaty to ‘shoot everything, we want quality and quantity!’ …. so no pressure then!

Firstly we did a week of strenuous trekking in the Langtang National Park to reach the foot of the receding Langtang Lirung glacier at 4500 metres. Along the way we passed through many villages and small settlements occupied by the Tamang people, an ancient Nepalese race. This presented many great opportunities for portraits documenting elements of everyday life.


Tshring Zhang Mo (80), Langtang Village

On the approach to the glacier we found fresh Snow Leopard pug marks and scat, very exciting but the beast itself remained typically elusive.

Snow Leopard pug mark, near Langtang Lirung glacier

Next, a total change of scenery and climate, from the chill of the mountains to the steamy jungles of Chitwan National Park south west of Kathmandu. Here we bore witness to the alarming Mikania (‘Mile A Minute’) plant. This invasive, alien climbing weed is not indigenous to Nepal but an American invader running rampant in the park killing native plant species. Young Mikania plants can grow as fast as 3 inches in 24 hours and it has so far covered 20% of the park.  We also observed the abundant fauna in the park from elephant back and visited a WWF sponsored Bio-gas village. Nearly 90% of the village now cooks with biogas which is methane produced from cow dung and human waste. The villagers are happy – no more chopping and carrying wood from the forest – and the park has less pressure on its precious resources.

Mikania micrantha is native to the sub-tropical zones of north, central, and south America but is also running riot in Nepal


A male Asian one-horned Rhino, Chitwan National Park
Nepali children playing in the river that borders the Chitwan National Park

The final third of the trip was spent in the far south west of the country in and around the little visited Bardia National Park. Here WWF has been providing long term assistance to help farmers to grow menthol (mint), as an alternative crop to rice. Its a win-win situation as mint is more profitable for the farmers and far less attractive to rhinos and elephants as a food source thus significantly reducing human-wildlife conflict.

A woman cuts grass (with special permission) in the protected grasslands of Khata in Royal Bardia National Park

Method: first image SB900 camera right, high,  mounted on a monopod triggered via SC29 sync cord from D3’s hot shoe. Second image, – similar but SB900 hand held to camera right and zoomed to just lift closest woman’s face. Kids in water – fill flash on high speed sync using SC29 and SB900.

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