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Location India, Himachal Pradesh
Central coordinates 77o 32.57' East  31o 44.23' North
IBA criteria A1, A2
Area 75,400 ha
Altitude 1,500 - 5,805m
Year of IBA assessment 2004

Bombay Natural History Society

Site description The sprawling Great Himalayan National Park in Kullu district has relatively undisturbed areas which support diverse Himalayan wildlife. The Park lies in the upper catchment area of the Tirthan, Sainj and Jiwa rivers, which flow westwards and feed the Beas river. The Park includes parts of Tirthan Sanctuary, and is bordered by the Pin Valley National Park in the northeast, Kanawar Sanctuary in the northwest, and Rupi Bhabha Sanctuary in the east (all of them IBAs). These constitute Himachal Pradesh’s largest protected area with regard to wildlife. The eastern part of the Park lies above the snowline, and has glaciers and permanent ice. Based on the forest classification by Champion and Seth (1968), 14 forest types could be identified in Great Himalayan NP. In brief, about a third of the Park supports undisturbed forest, mainly around Jiva, Sainj and Tirthan nullah (streams) and their tributaries, extending from the base of the valley to 3,300 m, depending upon the aspect (Anon. 1997). A little over half of the Park area lies above 4,000 m, forming alpine meadows, particularly on the south side of Sainj Valley above Shangarh and at Dela Thach, above Lopah. The vegetation of Tirthan Valley has the northern aspects clothed in dense forest, dominated by Blue Pine Pinus wallichiana, and higher up by a diverse Deciduous Broadleaf Forest on moderately sloping areas and Fir Abies pindrow on steep areas. Tirthan Valley, between Bandal and Rolla, also supports small areas of Oak forest (Quercus sp. and Q. incana). The southerly aspects are generally more open; stands of Cedar Cedrus deodara are interspersed with grassy and shrub-clad hillsides, with a zone of Kharsu Oak Q. semecarpifolia forest above 2,800 m. There is a stand of Yew Taxus baccata near Manjhan village in Jiwa Valley. This species is under constant threat due to its valuable medicinal properties.

Key Biodiversity 

AVIFAUNA: The area is particularly noted for its prolific pheasant populations. The Park is home to over 300 species of birds (Gaston et al. 1994), an excellent representation of West Himalayan avifauna. The Himalayan Monal Lophophorus impejanus, Koklass Pheasant Pucrasia macrolopha, Kaleej Pheasant Lophura leucomelanos and Hill Partridge Arborophila torqueola are common, while Cheer Pheasant Catreus wallichii and the Western Tragopan Tragopan melanocephalus have more restricted ranges. Chukar Partridge Alectoris chukar, Snow Partridge Lerwa lerwa and Himalayan Snowcock Tetraogallus himalayensis occur in suitable habitats all over the Park. This IBA site could be the most important site in Himachal Pradesh as far as Galliform conservation is concerned. Ramesh et al. (1999) studied pheasants in this Park during 1997- 1999 and reported encounter rates (Number of birds per km walk) for Himalayan Monal (range 1.5 to 3.9), Western Tragopan (0 to 0.4) and Koklass Pheasant (0.3 to 1.4). This sprawling Park, and the adjoining IBA has the largest intact Montane Broadleaf Deciduous Forests and Mixed Broadleaf Coniferous Forests left in the Western Himalayas. BirdLife International (undated) has identified various biome-restricted bird assemblages. In this IBA, the main biome is Sino-Himalayan Temperate Forest (Biome-7), between 1,800 m to 3,600 m but on the higher reaches, above 3,600 m, Eurasian High Montane (Alpine and Tibetan) bird fauna is seen (Biome-5), while below 2,000 m, in the Sino-Himalayan Subtropical Forest (Biome-8), many subtropical bird assemblages are found. As expected, the largest number of bird species are from Biome-7. BirdLife International (undated) has listed 112 species, out of which 50 have been identified till now. Forty-eight birds are listed for Biome-5. This site has 12 of them. As the area is remote, perhaps more than double the known number would be present, if detailed surveys are conducted. Eleven out of 95 species of Biome-8 could be located till now. More are likely to be found. This large IBA lies in the Western Himalayas Endemic Bird Area (EBA), (Stattersfield et al. 1998) and has five out of 11 restricted range species. Looking at the undisturbed habitat available, some restricted range species would have considerable percentage of their numbers in this IBA alone.

OTHER KEY FAUNA: The Park has almost all the representative mammalian fauna of the Western Himalayas. Among primates, both Rhesus Macaque Macaca mulatta and Langur Semnopithecus entellus are present.

Carnivores such as Leopard Panthera pardus and both Asiatic Black Bear Ursus thibetanus and Brown Bear Ursus arctos are commonly encountered. Himalayan Tahr Hemitragus jemlahicus and Goral Nemorhaedus goral occur in good numbers, and Barking Deer Indian Muntjak Muntiacus muntjak and Serow Nemorhaedus sumatraensis in smaller numbers. Himalayan Musk Deer Moschus chrysogaster has been recorded in Tirthan and Sainj valley (Gaston et al. 1981; S. Sathyakumar pers. comm. 2003). Bharal Pseudois nayaur is also found in the upper reaches of Tirthan and Sainj valleys (Fox 1987; Vinod and Sathyakumar 1999).

Populations of IBA trigger species

Species Season Period Population estimate Quality of estimate IBA Criteria IUCN Category
Western Tragopan Tragopan melanocephalus resident  2004  present  A1, A2  Vulnerable 
Cheer Pheasant Catreus wallichii resident  2004  present  A1, A2  Vulnerable 
White-cheeked Tit Aegithalos leucogenys 2004  present  A2  Least Concern 
Spectacled Finch Callacanthis burtoni 2004  present  A2  Least Concern 
Orange Bullfinch Pyrrhula aurantiaca 2004  present  A2  Least Concern 

Protected areas

Protected area Designation Area (ha) Relationship with IBA Overlap with IBA (ha)  
Great Himalayan National Park 75,400 is identical to site 75,400  

Local conservation groups The local conservation group below is working to support conservation at this IBA.

Name Year formed
SAHARA (Great Himalayan National Park) 0


IUCN habitat Habitat detail Extent (% of site)
Forest   -
Shrubland   -
Grassland   -

Land use

Land-use Extent (% of site)
nature conservation and research -
Notes: Nature conservation and research
tourism/recreation -
Notes: Tourism and recreation
water management -
Notes: Water management

Acknowledgements Key contributors: Sanjeeva Pandey, S. Sathyakumar and K. Ramesh.


Anonymous (1997) Great Himalayan National Park: A Profile. Department of Forest Farming and Conservation (Wildlife Wing), Pp. 33.

BirdLife International (undated) Important Bird Areas (IBAs) in Asia: Project briefing book. BirdLife International, Cambridge, U.K., unpublished.

Champion and Seth (1968) A revised survey of the forest types of India, Govt. of India Press, Delhi. Pp. 403.

Fox, J. L. (1987) Caprini of northwestern India. Caprinae News 2(1): 6-8.

Gaston, A. J., Hunter, M.L. Jr and Garson, P.J. (1981) The wildlife of Himachal Pradesh, Western Himalayas. University of Maine School of Forest Resources Technical Notes No. 82. Pp 159.

Gaston, A. J., Garson, P. J. and Pandey, S. (1994) Birds recorded in the Great Himalayan National Park. Forktail 9: 45-57.

Ramesh, K. and Sathyakumar, S. and Rawat, G. S. (1999) Ecology and Conservation Status of the Pheasants of Great Himalayan National Park, Western Himalayas. In: Ecological Study of the Conservation of Biodiversity and Biotic Pressures in the Great Himalayan National Park Conservation Area – An Ecodevelopment Approach. Final Report. Vol. III. Wildlife Institute of India, Dehra Dun.

Stattersfield, A. J., Crosby, M. J., Long, A. J. and Wege, D. C. (1998) Endemic Bird Areas of the World: Priorities for Biodiversity Conservation. BirdLife Conservation Series No. 7. BirdLife International, Cambridge, U.K.

Vinod, T. R. and Sathyakumar, S. (1999) Ecology and Conservation of Mountain Ungulates in Great Himalayan National Park, Western Himalayas. In: An Ecological Study of the Conservation of Biodiversity and Biotic Pressures in the Great Himalayan National Park Conservation Area – An Ecodevelopment Approach. Final Report. Vol. III. Wildlife Institute of India, Dehradun.

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Recommended citation  BirdLife International (2015) Important Bird Areas factsheet: Great Himalayan National Park. Downloaded from on 28/04/2015

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