Posted by: Loren Coleman on September 25th, 2006
Earlier here notice was made of the impact on Yeti studies of the reportedly downed Nepali helicopter.
Rescuers have now confirmed that there were no survivors in the wreckage of a helicopter in Nepal four days after it disappeared.
The following are press releases being dispatched about the horrible news, although it is getting little mention in the North American media.
It was a national tragedy when the country lost noted nature conservationists, senior officials of the Ministry of Forest and Soil Conservation and Kathmandu-based foreign missions in one of the deadliest crashes in Nepalese aviation history, which was officially confirmed after three days, on Monday.
Carrying people 24 people, the ill-fated Sri Airlines 91-AhJ-MI-172 helicopter that went missing soon after it took off from Ghunsa area of the eastern hilly district of Taplejung for the district headquarters Phungling on Saturday morning was found crashed during a search and rescue operation on Monday afternoon. The wreckage of the chopper was discovered at Gyabla, some 2km south of Ghunsa. Nobody on board survived.
While positive news about the missing chopper was being eagerly awaited – although faintly given the circumstances – the mood of the nation changed into that of shock and deep sense of loss as soon as reports of the discovery of the crashed chopper came in national media. Search and rescue workers said they could identify only one body while others were badly damaged.
What caused the crash is yet to be confirmed.
Those travelling on the ill-fated helicopter included Minister of State for Forest, Gopal Rai, and his wife Mina, Secretary of the ministry, Damodar Prasad Parajuli, Girector General at the Department of Forest and Wildlife Conservation Dr. Tirtha Man Maskey, WWF country representative Dr Chandra Gurung, Charge d’ Affairs of the Embassy of Finland, Pauli Mustonen, noted geographer and planner Dr Harka Gurung, Director General of Department of National Parks, Wildlife Conservation Narayan Poudel, Director General of Department.
They were returning after a function organised to hand over the Kanchanjunga Conservation Area the local community in Taplejung. The handing over the conversation area is considered a major step in the conservation of bio-diversity with the involvement of the local people.
Biographies of the deceased persons
Dr. Harka Gurung
First tourism minister of Nepal, Dr. Harka Gurung is known for his contribution in promotion of mountain tourism, conservation of wildlife and environment. Born in the western district of Lamjung, he did his B.A (honours) from Patna College in Patna, India; Post Graduate Diploma in Geography and PhD from the University of Edinburgh, UK. He was associated with New ERA, a renowned research and consulting firm. His academic assignments include Demonstrator, University of Edinburgh, Research Fellow, School of Oriental and African Studies, University of London, Lecturer Tribhuvan University, Kathmandu and Visiting Fellow, Population Institute, East West Centre, Honolulu.
He served the then His Majesty’s Government of Nepal at different times as member and vice-Chairman of the National Planning Commission (1968-75), Minister of State for Education (1975-78), Industry and Commerce, Tourism, Public Works and Transport. He was Director of Asia Pacific Development Centre, an inter-governmental organisation based in Kuala Lumpur, Malayasia. Dr Gurung is regarded as the Nepal’s most prominent expert on the Himalayas. He was the leader of the government committee formed to provide names to mountain peaks in the late 1970s.
Dr. Gurung has to his credit a number of books and articles including Pokhara Valley: A Geographical Survey, Vignettes of Nepal and Annapurna to Dhaulagiri: A Decade of Mountaineering in Nepal Himalayas – 1950-960
He was also the chief advisor to Nepal Maintaining Association.
Dr. Chandra Prasad Gurung
Dr. Chandra Prasad Gurung, who hailed from Sikles Village in Kaski district, was the country representative of the WWF Nepal since 1999. His expertise includes eco-tourism, sustainable development, integrated conservation and development, and protected area management. With M.Sc. degree in Rural Development Planning from the Asian Institute of Technology, Bangkok, Thailand, Dr. Gurung completed his Ph.D. on Medical Geography from the University of Hawaii in 1988. He, along with two other colleagues, designed and implemented the first successful community-based integrated conservation and development project, the Annapurna Conservation Area Project (ACAP)– regarded worldwide as one of the successful protected areas in its ability to integrate conservation with sustainable rural development and to promote eco-tourism. Recently, as the CR of WWF, he had been instrumental in implementing the first landscape level conservation program – the Tarai Arc Landscape in Nepal.
He visited Europe and then the US in 1974 as part of his topography studies tour.
He also served as the Member Secretary of the King Mahendra Trust for Nature Conservation, and as Visiting Professor at the IUCN, an international conversation organisation. Dr. Gurung received the Order of the Golden Ark Award in 1993 from Prince Bernhard of the Netherlands. He was also decorated in the same year with the Gorkha Dhaksin Bhahu by His Majesty’s Government of Nepal.
Dr Tirth Man Maskey
Former Director General of the Department of national park and Wildlife Conservation, Dr. Tirtha Man Maskey was a well-known personality in the conservation field in Nepal. Maskey started off as a warden of the Royal Chitwan National Park in 1972. He completed his Master’s Degree from the University of Michigan in 1978 on Wildlife Management. He did his PhD in 1979 from University of Florida on Wildlife and Range Management specializing in Gharial Conservation. Along with receiving medals in Nepal, he also received Award from Netherlands ‘s Prince Bernhard – the Order of Golden Ark. He has visited national parks and wildlife reserves extensively.
Mingma Norbu Sherpa
Currently working in Washington DC as Director of Conservation, WWF’s Asia and Pacific Programs, Mingma Norbu Sherpa was a conservationist well acquainted with Nepal’s conservation sector.
Born in 1955 in the Sherpa village of Khunde, in the Everest region, Mingma was one of the first students to have graduated from the Hillary Khumjung School – the first of many schools developed for Sherpa children with the assistance of Sir Edmund Hillary, famed conqueror of Mt Everest. With further support from the Hillary Foundation, Mingma went on to receive a diploma in Parks and Recreation from Lincoln College, University of Canterbury in New Zealand in 1980 and a Masters degree in Natural Resources Management from the University of Manitoba in 1985.
Between his studies abroad, Mingma returned to Nepal and worked as a park warden for Sagarmatha National Park, home to Mt Everest. He was the first Sherpa to have served as Warden of Sagarmatha after Sir Edmund Hillary helped establish the park in 1976.
When he returned again to Nepal in 1985, Mingma remained actively involved in the Annapurna Conservation Area Project (ACAP), initially as a principle investigator for the feasibility study of the Annapurna area, and later as the director of the project itself. Mingma held this position for three years prior to joining WWF as the director of the Himalayan program for WWF’s Nepal, Bhutan and Himalayan Program. In this capacity, Mingma was responsible for the development and oversight for a variety of projects, including ACAP, as well as the management o
f Shey Phoksundo National Park in Nepal and Royal Manas National Park in Bhutan.
Next, Mingma went on to become the country representative of WWF’s Bhutan and Nepal Program for the six years prior to his move to the United States in 1998. Mingma has also been awarded the Order of the Golden Ark Award from His Royal Highness Prince Bernard of the Netherlands for his conservation achievement in the Himalayas. He also received Gorkha Dhaksin Bhahu from His Majesty the King for his conservation works.
[Mingma is the individual who has been quoted positively on his studies and the existence of the Yeti.]
Gopal Rai was the state minister for Forest and Soil Conservation in the government formed after the restoration of democracy on April this year. He was a Nepali Congress MP from Okhaldhunga and one of the active leaders of the NC from the district.
Wife of minister Rai.
Dr Damodar Prasad Parajuli
Dr Damodar Prasad Parajuli was the acting secretary of the Ministry of Forest and Soil Conservation. Parajuli had completed his Master’s Degree from Australia and did his PhD in Botany from India. He was the senior most among the current joint secretaries. He had also worked in the capacity of Director General of the Department of Forest.
Narayan Prasad Poudel
Narayan Prasad Poudel, the Director General of the Department of National Parks and Wildlife Conservation, had joined the government job some 30 years ago. He did his Bachelor’s and Master’s Degree in botany from the USA. He was one of the key persons for the establishment of Makalu-Barun National Park. He was promoted to DG about six months ago.
Sarad Kumar Rai
Sarad Kumar Rai, the Director General of the Department of Forest, had joined the government job about 30 years ago and served most of his time as the district forest officer. He had completed his Master’s Degree from Australia.
Dr Bigyan Acharya
Acharya was the programme officer of the USAID in Nepal since last five years. Earlier he worked as district forest officer and monitoring division under the forest ministry. He had completed \ Master’s Degree and PhD in biodiversity from Netherlands.
Bijaya Shrestha, the central committee member of the Federation of Nepalese Chamber of Commerce and Industries (FNCCI).
Hem Raj Bhandari and Sunil Singh, journalists associated with state-owned Nepal Television
Dawa Tshering, Chairman of the Kanchanjunga Area Conservation Management Council.
Yeshi Lama, Senior Programme Officer of WWF Nepal
Pauli Mustonen was the charge d’ affaires, Embassy of Finland.
Margaret Alexander, Deputy Director of the USAID.
Dr Jill Bowling, Conservation Director of WWF-UK
Jennifer Headley, Regional Coordinator of Eastern Himalayas, WWF-UK.
Matthew Preece, programme officer of EHBC, WWF-US.
Klim Kim, Captain, (Russia) of the Sri Airlines helicopter
Valery Slafronov, (Russia) Crewmember
Mingma Sherpa, Captain
Tandu Shrestha, Crewmember
WWF Mourns Loss of Conservation Leaders in Nepal
9/25/2006 9:19:00 AM
To: National Desk, Environment Reporter
WASHINGTON, Sept. 25 /U.S. Newswire/ — WWF, the global conservation organization, said today it was deeply saddened at the loss of life in Saturday’s helicopter crash in the mountainous far- east of Nepal.
"The helicopter has been found, and it appears that there are no survivors, but we are waiting for final confirmation," WWF Director General James Leape said this morning.
The wreckage of the Shree Air helicopter was found today 1.8 km. (1.15 miles) from Ghunsa village. Rescuers had been looking for the crash site since the helicopter disappeared shortly after noon Nepal time (6.00 GMT) on Saturday.
It was found by a search team who had hiked in on foot.
"This is a time of profound sadness for all of us at WWF. Our hearts go out to the families and loved ones of the passengers and crew at this time of great loss," said Carter S. Roberts, CEO of WWF in the United States. In the U.S. and Canada, WWF is known as World Wildlife Fund.
Seven WWF staff from its offices in Nepal, the U.K. and the U.S. were on board, as well as high-ranking government officials, representatives of other agencies, journalists and Russian crew members.
If confirmed, the deaths will amount to the biggest single loss of life in WWF’s 45-year history.
"The colleagues we have lost had dedicated their lives to conserving the extraordinary natural resources of Nepal and of the earth. Their deaths are a huge blow to conservation efforts in Nepal, and worldwide. They will be greatly missed," Leape said.
"I am humbled by the work and dedication that the seven amazing conservationists from WWF and our deeply valued partners brought to their work. They are conservation heroes and will be sorely missed by all of us," said Roberts.
WWF appreciates the cooperation the authorities have given us and all the efforts of local communities during this difficult time.
The helicopter was on its way back from a trip to a conservation site at Ghunsa, in Kangchenjunga, eastern Nepal, near the border with India. It was due to land in Taplejung 20 minutes later but failed to arrive.
An air and land search was quickly begun, but was hampered by the remote location and poor weather conditions, which reduced visibility.
The helicopter was returning from an inauguration ceremony which saw the Nepalese government turn over the conservation of the wildlife and habitats surrounding Kangchenjunga — the world’s third-highest mountain — to a coalition of local communities.
The Kangchenjunga Conservation Area is known for its rich biodiversity, spectacular scenery and vibrant cultural heritage. Launched in 1998, it is designed to conserve globally threatened wildlife species such as the snow leopard and red panda while supporting the local communities through health services, informal education and income-generating activities.