Frog Research In The Remote Himalayas Of Nepal

biraj shrestha nepal

Protecting the beautiful stream frogs of Manaslu in Nepal’s remote Himalayas

SAVE THE FROGS! thanks our generous donors who helped us raise $1,700 to fund a frog conservation initiative in the remote Himalayas of Nepal. SAVE THE FROGS! Task Force Member Biraj Shrestha returned to the Manaslu Conservation Area in March 2017 for a three week research expedition into some of the world’s most dangerous montane amphibian habitats. The “SAVE MANASLU’S FROGS! Research Expedition” was the first expedition of its kind. Further down this page, you can read about the specifics of the expedition, learn about Manaslu’s frog species and meet the expedition team members.

biraj shrestha nepal

Expedition Leader Biraj Shrestha | Biraj’s Story | Meet The Team | Expedition Activities | Why Frogs | Mission Of The Expedition


Meet The Expedition Leader, SAVE THE FROGS! Task Force Member Biraj Shrestha

Biraj is an avid amphibian lover from Nepal who has been actively involved in research and conservation of amphibians for more than five years. In 2013, Biraj became engaged with SAVE THE FROGS! as a volunteer and has expanded amphibian conservation efforts through holding annual Save The Frogs Day events in different regions of Nepal, winning multiple Save The Frogs Day grants to enable his educational activities. In 2016 he took part in and completed the SAVE THE FROGS! 90-Day Challenge. He currently serves on the SAVE THE FROGS! Task Force. Biraj is also a recipient of grants from the Rufford Small Grants Foundation and The Pollination Project. These grants have enabled Biraj to conduct amphibian research and education projects to save the frogs from extinction in the Manaslu Conservation Area. Biraj holds a Master’s degree in Environmental Science from Khwopa College (affiliated to Tribhuvan University) with a specialty in Biodiversity Conservation and Wildlife Management. In March 2017, Biraj led the March SAVE MANASLU’S FROGS Research Expedition to the remote Himalayas.

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SAVE THE FROGS! Task Force Member Biraj Shrestha with a lovely Nanorana liebigii.

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Biraj Shrestha and the members of Resources Himalaya Foundation organized this Save The Frogs Day event in 2015.

Biraj’s Story

In 2012, I visited the Manaslu Conservation Area for the first time to carry out my dissertation on herpetological inventory as part of my Master’s degree requirement. Manaslu is characterized by gigantic mountains, including the eighth highest peak on earth, Mt. Manaslu (8,163 m). The region has glaciers, high altitude lakes, and rich biodiversity. I saw that the local communities hunt stream frogs, locally called paha. The frog’s meat is considered a local delicacy, free of cost, and is presumed to have health benefits. Hunting frogs is also considered a mode of recreation in remote villages. Local use of paha has been rampant in most of the mountainous regions of Nepal from time immemorial, which spells grave danger for frog survival as the Nepalese human population is growing rapidly.

save the frogs day manaslu
Biraj Shrestha (far right) organized this Save The Frogs Day event in Manaslu, Nepal in 2016.

To ameliorate the situation, I developed a research and conservation education project called ‘Saving Mountain Frogs (Paha) Before It’s Too Late; Conservation Effort at Manaslu Conservation Area, Gorkha District, Nepal’, which got funded by The Rufford Foundation (United Kingdom) in early 2016. Along with my team members I visited Manaslu in late spring 2016, and we did field work in six villages (Village Development Committees) and documented the presence of four amphibian species: Amolops formosus, Nanorana liebigii, Ombrana sikimensis and Duttaphrynus himalayanus. The first three are known as paha, and are often consumed by local communities at Manaslu.

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Hunting paha is a common activity in montane regions of Nepal.

Mission of the Expedition & Expedition Rationale

In March 2017, I led a month long expedition to the remote mountains of Manaslu Conservation Area (Gorkha district), western Nepal to do follow-up amphibian surveys and conduct conservation education programs at Manaslu. The mission of the expedition was to gather baseline information on Manaslu’s amphibian population, and to educate and empower local communities on amphibian conservation.

searching for frogs
Searching For Frogs

The SAVE MANASLU’S FROGS! Research Expedition comprised a team of experts with skills in amphibian science, wildlife research, high altitude expeditions, photography and environmental conservation. We hiked the trails of Manaslu (17 days worth of trekking), crossing huge mountain passes separated by the strong currents of Budhi Gandaki River. The entry point was Jagat which is three days walk from Soti; to reach Soti it takes two days drive from the capital city, Kathmandu.

sama gau
The route to Sama Gau, Manasla Conservation Area

During our September 2016 expedition, on our fourth day of hiking, we were approaching the village of Tatopani when a huge landslide occurred right in front of our eyes. The landslide, caused by continuous rainfall, killed four people and left many trekkers wounded. Sadly, on top of the deaths we witnessed, we had to halt our journey as the landslide had blocked the route completely. But we revisited Manaslu in March 2017 and resumed our conservation endeavors. 

landslide tatopani
The buried trail where the Tatopani landslide killed four trekkers in September 2016.

Meet The Frogs

Amolops formosus got its name ‘Beautiful stream frog’ because of the design in mosaic of chromatophores at the dorsal surface of the olive to brown colored body. Its body is slender, with adhesive round digits, and it is often seen clinging to steep edges of cascades. It is mostly dependent upon streams and riparian habitats. This frog is distributed across an elevation range of 1,000-2,500m.

Amolops formosus
Amolops formosus

Nanorana liebigii is the most widely hunted paha across Nepal and is generally larger than other stream dwelling frogs. The males are characterized by the presence of black spiny tubercles at the ventral forelimbs that aid in reproduction. It has been recorded at elevations from 1,500-3,500m, usually inhabiting mountain brooks and depositing their eggs on the underside of stones.

nanorana liebigii
Nanorana liebigii photo by Biraj Shrestha

Ombrana sikimensis is a mountain-stream dependent species. They are often found in shallow water hiding under stones, between 1,000 to 2,000m elevation. Little is known about their ecology. The IUCN Red List of Threatened Species has placed its population status as rare and on decreasing trend.

ombrana sikimensis
Ombrana sikimensis photo by Biraj Shrestha

Timeline Of The Expedition
March 1 – March 31, 2017

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The trail near Soti

Activities Carried Out
•    Follow-up amphibian surveys at streams, agricultural farms, and forests in the Manaslu Conservation Area.
•    Amphibian Conservation Dissemination Workshops with local community at four out of seven villages (VDCs) in Manaslu Conservation Area, involving members from the Conservation Area Management Committee (CAMC), Anti Poaching Unit (APU), Forest Management Committee (FMC), students, teachers, and hotels.
•    Dstributing educational color posters to locals with paha conservation message in the native Nepali language.
•    Establishing Amphibian Conservation Groups (ACGs) to expand the environmental awareness of the public through discouraging paha hunting and use while spreading paha conservation message among the uniformed ones.
•    Conducting Amphibian Educational Excursion with Amphibian Conservation Groups at local streams.
•    Documenting the procedures of medicinal use, processing, storage and local food practice of paha in detail from Manaslu.

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Taking body length measurements on a frog.

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Save The Frogs Day presentation at Philim Sirdibas VDC.

Team Members

SAVE THE FROGS! Task Force Member and Expedition Leader Biraj Shrestha was joined by wildlife researcher Naresh Kusi and photographer/researcher Sanej Prasad Suwal.

lho nepal
Biraj Shrestha speaking at an elementary school in Lho, Nepal (3,500m above sea level).

Naresh Kusi
Naresh’s research interests include predator-prey dynamics in the higher Himalayas, floral investigations, and exploration of wildlife-tourism potential.

sanej suwal
Sanej Suwal restoring habitat.

manaslu waterfalls
Waterfalls in Manaslu

Why Save The Frogs?
•    Tadpoles often help to clean the water by consuming organic debris, algae.
•    Frogs check the pest population that transfer disease to humans and also help control pests that infest crops. Thus they are regarded as the farmer’s friend.
•    Frogs hold a special role in the food web as they are an important source of food to fish, lizards, snakes, birds and few mammals.
•    Frogs are the bioindicators.
•    Frogs are BEAUTIFUL!

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An educational poster Biraj prepared to raise awareness of the environmental impact of paha hunting.

lalitpur resources himalaya foundation
Biraj speaking at in 2013 at the Save The Frogs Day event in Lalitpur organized by Resources Himalaya Foundation.

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Thanks to our donors, this SAVE THE FROGS! research expedition arrived at Manaslu with all the supplies needed to make this month long journey a success and return home safely.

Together we can SAVE MANASLU’S FROGS!