National Geographic : 1950 Jan
VOL. XCVII, No. 1 WASHINGTON JANUARY, 1950 r " THE NATIONAL MAGAZ]]]W COPYRIGHT, 1949, BY NATIONAL GEOGRAPHIC SOCIETY, WASHINGTON, D. C. INTERNATIONAL COPYRIGHT SECURED Peerless Nepal-A Naturalist's Paradise BY S. DILLON RIPLEY With Illustrations by National Geographic PhotographerIolkmar WILntzel The author, Associate Curator of the Peabody Museum of Natural History at Yale, led into hitherto officially closed Nepal a scientific expedition sponsored jointly by the National Geographic Society, the Smithsonian Institution, and Yale University. The expedition returned to the United States with hundreds of rare birds and numerous interesting specimens of little-known small mammals and fishes. An outstanding ornithological find was the spiny babbler (Acanthoptila nipalensis), a bird which had not been reported for 106 years. Before this rediscovery, only four specimens, brought in dead to Sir Brian Hodgson more than a century ago, had been collected, and until Dr. Ripley saw a flock of seven in western Nepal last January, no ornithologist had seen one alive. The expedition searched everywhere for the mountain quail (Ophrysia superciliosa), which has not been collected since 1876; but their most diligent efforts were futile. However, through the generous cooperation of the Nepal Government the search will be continued indefinitely.-The Editor. ON AN EXPEDITION for the Smith sonian Institution and Yale University in the winter of 1946-47 I stayed at New Delhi with my friend, George R. Merrell, then American Charge d'Affaires in India. Mr. Merrell had just returned from Nepal on an official visit to discuss the opening of diplomatic relations between that hitherto forbidden country and the United States. He suggested that I should try to visit Nepal. Accordingly, introductions were ef fected with the Nepalese representative at New Delhi, and a telegram was dispatched to Katmandu, the capital. The response was an invitation from the then Maharaja of Nepal, or Prime Min ister, who is always a member of the ruling Rana family.* With my assistant from the Peabody Museum at Yale, Edward Migdalski, I was able to spend a month collecting birds and animals in and around Katmandu and getting to know the heads of the Government. Therefore, in 1948, I was busy with plans to return, this time co-sponsored by the Na tional Geographic Society, Yale University, and the Smithsonian Institution. Our party consisted of Edward Migdalski, again as my principal assistant; two graduates of Yale in the spring of 1948, Howard Weaver and Rich ard Mack, as mammal collectors; Volkmar Wentzel, staff photographer of the NATIONAL GEOGRAPHIC MAGAZINE; and his assistant, Francis Leeson, a young Englishman who had been serving in the Indian Army. My interest in far-off Nepal dates from my first studies of Indian birds. The birds of that little-known land form an integral part of the bird fauna of India, for Nepal is like a key stone as far as any study of the fauna of the vast Himalaya region is concerned. A Remarkable Bird Collector Through the indefatigable research of Sir Brian Houghton Hodgson, who resided at Katmandu more than a century ago, some 563 species of birds have been recorded from there. Hodgson, a young East India Company employee, was sent from Calcutta to the hills, * In Nepal all power is vested in the Prime Minis ter, who also bears the titles of Maharaja and Su preme Commander in Chief and Marshal of Nepal. The King is known as the Maharajadhiraja.