In the remote village of Lopre, nestled in the picturesque Parbat district of Gandaki Province, a vibrant celebration unfolded – the 11th “Nepal Latokosero and Huchil Festival” (Owl Festival). The two-day extravaganza, which kicked off on February 2, 2024 (19 Magh 2080 BS), aimed to shine a light on the conservation of owls and Eurasian Eagle owls.
The festival is the brainchild of Raju Acharya of Friends of Nature and is organized in Lopre by home-based NGO Prakritik Sampada Samrakchan Sansthan, the organization dedicated to protecting the diverse wildlife of Nepal. The event’s venue, the Malika Aadharbhut School in Lopre, provided a stunning backdrop against the majestic Annapurna Range.
Raju Prasad Acharya, the chairman of Jaljala Rural Municipality, inaugurated the Megha event. His words echoed with pride as he addressed the gathering, expressing happiness at hosting such a grand festival in the heart of Jaljala. He believed that the festival’s impact would transcend the festivities, successfully conveying the crucial message of owl conservation while bringing positive benefits to human lives. Chairman Acharya emphasized that the event would also play a pivotal role in promoting tourism in this relatively untouched corner of Nepal.
Vice President Deepak Acharya echoed these sentiments highlighting the positive influence the festival had on tourism promotion in Lopre. The ripple effect was evident as the rural municipality appealed to the Gandaki provincial government for a road upgrade to the village and beyond. Plans were in motion and within the current fiscal year, indicating a commitment to improving accessibility to this enchanting locale.
Raju Acharya, the Executive Director of Friends of Nature, shed light on the festival’s core mission- sending a powerful message about the conservation of these nocturnal birds, often regarded as farmer’s friends. The Festival wasn’t merely a cultural celebration; it was a platform to educate and create awareness about the significance of preserving these avian creatures.
The heart of the festival lay in its diverse offerings. The Pun community, indigenous to the region, showcased their native art, culture and costumes through various musical presentations. The festival organizers took a unique approach, setting up a temporary museum within the school premises. Six classroom halls transformed into mesmerizing display of informative posters, brochures, pictures and installments of various owl species. It was an educational journey for visitors from 4 surrounding villages; Kuwapani, Okhreni, Shalija, Nangi, etc, immersing them in the fascinating world of these mysterious birds.
As sun traversed its route, the festival came alive with the echoes of endangered local games and musical performances. The 8 feet wide stage became a platform for dramas depicting the importance of owl conservation, performed by enthusiastic students of the Pokhara Institute of Forestry Studies. The air was filled with a sense of camaraderie, as attendees from all walks of life joined hands in collective efforts to protect these remarkable creatures.
Not just limited to cultural festivities, the festival also addressed essential of health issues. A session on Menstrual Hygiene Management, conducted by the Kathmandu-based NGO, Healing Hands Nepal, provided valuable insights to adolescent girls. It was a holistic approach, recognizing the interconnectedness of environmental conservation and community well-being.
The two-day “Nepal Owl Festival” transcends boundaries by accommodating conservation, culture, and community engagement under one umbrella. It left an indelible mark on Lopre, a village that, through this festival, became a beacon of inspiration for sustainable living and wildlife preservation.
Here are the glimpses of the extraordinary event (the area saw for the first time) that will undoubtedly resonate, echoing the call for harmony between humanity and the natural world.