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Location India, Himachal Pradesh
Central coordinates 77o 21.50' East  31o 58.95' North
IBA criteria A1, A2
Area 5,400 ha
Altitude 1,800 - 4,833m
Year of IBA assessment 2004

Bombay Natural History Society

Site description This small Sanctuary is contiguous with the Great Himalayan National Park, another IBA of Himachal Pradesh. The terrain is steep, with deep valleys and rocky cliffs. The Sanctuary has an altitudinal variation from 1,800 m to nearly 5,000 m. There are two main mountain peaks, Satupurna (3,519 m) and Shacha (3,542 m). The Parvati river flows north of the Sanctuary. There are lakes and natural springs of religious and historical importance at Khirganga and Mantalai on the outskirts of the Sanctuary. There is also a temple and a gurudwara at Manikaran, adjacent to the Sanctuary (Singh et al. 1990). Owing to its great altitudinal variation, seven forest types are present in this Sanctuary. Based on the classification of Champion and Seth (1968), they are Alpine Pastures, West Himalayan Sub-Alpine Forest, Kharsu Oak Forest, Moist Temperate Deciduous Forest, Western Mixed Coniferous Forest, Moist Deodar Forest and Ban Oak Forest. The Moist Temperate Deciduous Forest is one of the few undisturbed fragments of this type extant in Himachal Pradesh.

Key Biodiversity 

AVIFAUNA: Good populations of two globally threatened species i.e. Western Tragopan Tragopan melanocephalus and Cheer Pheasant Catreus wallichii are found in this Sanctuary, due to which it was selected as an IBA. It also has many biome species. No detailed work has been done in this area on birds, but Singh et al. (1990) provided a preliminary list of 80 bird species recorded in the Sanctuary. This site lies in the Western Himalayas Endemic Bird Area (EBA). In this EBA, 11 Restricted Range species have been listed, three are found in this IBA. According to BirdLife International (undated) classification of biomes, this site should come under Biome-7 (Sino-Himalayan Temperate Forest), occurring from 1,800 m to 3,600 m, and Biome-5 (Eurasian High Montane), which occurs above 3,600 m. As we do not have good bird checklist, it is not known how many biome species assemblages are found in this IBA. This site certainly needs more detailed work to be done on bird distribution, abundance and densities.

OTHER KEY FAUNA: The most important mammal of this Sanctuary is the highly elusive and rare Snow Leopard Uncia uncia. Its natural prey are Blue Sheep Pseudois nayaur, Ibex Capra sibirica, Musk Deer Moschus chrysogaster and Himalayan Tahr Hemitragus jemlahicus. At lower elevations, Leopard Panthera pardus is present, which mainly feeds on Goral Nemorhaedus goral, Barking Deer Muntiacus muntjak, and Serow Nemorhaedus sumatraensis. Both Uncia uncia and P. pardus also prey regularly on domestic animals.

Brown Bear Ursus arctos is generally found above 3,500 m in the sub-alpine and alpine regions, while the Asiatic Black Bear Ursus thibetanus is seen in temperate forests between 1,600 m and 3,500 m. Tibetan Wolf Canis lupus chanco is also reported from the alpine zone. The smaller predators are Yellow-throated Marten Martes flavigula, Himalayan Palm Civet Paguma larvata, Himalayan Weasel Mustela sibirica, Indian Fox Vulpes vulpes, and Golden Jackal Canis aureus. The Common Giant Flying Squirrel Petaurista petaurista is found in temperate forests at lower elevations in the Sanctuary (Singh et al. 1990).

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 

Protected areas

Protected area Designation Area (ha) Relationship with IBA Overlap with IBA (ha)  
Kanawar Sanctuary 5,400 is identical to site 5,400  


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
urban/industrial/transport -
Notes: Human habitation; Urban transport
water management -
Notes: Water management

Acknowledgements Key contributor: Sanjeeva Pandey.


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

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

Singh, S., Kothari, A. and Pande, P. (Eds) (1990) Directory of national parks and sanctuaries in Himachal Pradesh: management status and profiles. Indian Institute of Public Administration, New Delhi. Pp 164.

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Recommended citation  BirdLife International (2015) Important Bird Areas factsheet: Kanawar Wildlife Sanctuary. Downloaded from on 26/04/2015

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