Nepal is a country in central Asia located between India and China. Much of the country is in the Himalayan mountains, the tallest mountains on Earth. The Humla district is in Nepal’s Trans-Himalayan region, near Nepal’s border with China.
The climate of the Humla district is different from the rest of Nepal. This region lies north of the Himalayan range. The Himalayan mountains form a rain shadow over the region. This means that most of the monsoon rains that drench Nepal between July and September fall before passing over the mountains into Humla and the Trans-Himalayan region.
The Humla district is very remote. It was not connected to Nepal’s road network until relatively recently. This made it hard for scientists and conservationists to study the animals of the Humla district. In late 2021, scientists were therefore surprised and excited to discover three species of carnivore living in this region of Nepal:
1. The steppe polecat (Mustela eversmanii)
The steppe polecat is a species of ferret. It is known to live in other parts of Nepal, but was previously unknown from the Humla district.
2. The Pallas’s cat (Otocolobus manul)
Pallas’s cats – a type of small cat – were first seen in Nepal in 2012, but they were not known to occur in the Humla district. A camera trap photo from 2021 showed not just one Pallas’s cat, but a family of two adults and a kitten.
3. The Eurasian lynx (Lynx lynx)
The Eruasian lynx – another cat species – was suspected to occur in Humla district based on earlier reported sightings, but a camera trap provided the first conclusive evidence of their presence in 2021.
Naresh Kusi photographed the steppe polecat. He hopes to continue exploring the Humla district. “We hope to continue our work in the future and discover more species in Nepal’s Trans-Himalayan region, especially Humla,” he said.
Sometimes animal and plant species live in an area but go undetected by people, like in the story you just read. An animal might go undetected because it is secretive or rare. Or, it might go undetected because researchers can’t easily visit and study the area where the animal lives. (Examples of areas that are hard to access include parts of the Himalayan range or the deep ocean.)
If there was a species of wild cat (or any other species you are interested in) that you thought might be living around where you live, how would you go about proving that it lived there? What tools would you use to look for the animal? How would you prove to other people that it actually lived there?