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Location India, Himachal Pradesh
Central coordinates 76o 20.60' East  32o 11.93' North
IBA criteria A1, A3
Area 0 ha
Altitude 700 - 1,400m
Year of IBA assessment 2004

Bombay Natural History Society

Site description The valley from north to west of Sarah, below Dharamshala town, is a rare example of a valley at the foot of the Dhauladhar Range that is still largely covered with good forest, despite the fact that human population pressure is high in this zone, which has large well watered areas ideal for agriculture. There are only a few valleys that connect the dry deciduous forests of the Siwalik Hills to the temperate forests on the higher Dhauladhar Range. The forest in the valley around Sarah is more lush than most of the forests found in the Shiwaliks. It is a fine example of broad-leaf forest in a zone where most forests have given way to intensive, irrigated agriculture or to plantation of pine trees. Sub-tropical mixed forest with good undergrowth and deciduous and broad-leafed species interspersed with Chir Pine trees cover this area. The higher reaches of the valley are partly covered by tea gardens.

Key Biodiversity 

AVIFAUNA: Except for two species of vultures (Slender-billed Gyps tenuirostris and Oriental White-backed Gyps bengalensis) that have recently been listed in the Red Data Book (BirdLife International 2001), and which are in any case widespread, there are no globally threatened species or restricted range species found in Sarah Valley. However, the forest in this Valley sustains healthy populations of birds that have disappeared from many other valleys at the foot of the Dhauladhar (J. W. den Besten, pers. comm. 2003). Many species here are typical of the Siwaliks, and even more than the Siwalik forests, they include high densities of wintering species from Biome-5 and Biome-7. Breeding species of Biome-8 and Biome-11 are also found here. This is one of the few sites that was selected more or less purely on the basis of biome restricted assemblages (A3 criteria). Perhaps, there are more such sites in Himachal Pradesh but data are lacking. Sarah Valley lies in Sino-Himalayan Subtropical Forest (Biome-8). BirdLife International (undated) has listed 95 species, put of which 14 species have been seen here, but more are likely to be found. As biome-7 (Sino-Himalayan Temperate Forest) overlaps with Biome-8 and many species show altitudinal movement, 33 of Biome-7 are seen in Sarah Valley. During winter, four species of Biome-5 (Eurasian High Montane – Alpine and Tibetan) are seen here (Himalayan Griffon Gyps himalayensis, Wallcreeper Tichodroma muraria, Olivaceous Leaf Warbler Phylloscopus griseolus and Rosy Pipit Anthus roseatus). Except for the Himlayan Griffon which is largely confined to the Himalayas (with altitudinal movement), the three remaining species winter in the foothills and north Indian plains, so their presence in Sarah Valley is not surprising. However, what is most interesting about this IBA is the presence of at least 15 species of Biome-11 (Indo-Malayan Tropical Dry Zone). This is due to the fact that this relatively wet Valley is connected with the dry deciduous forest of the Siwaliks and many birds of Siwalik and plains move in during summer for breeding in this Valley. Thus, we have a site where we can see resident birds from the high Himalayas and also from the dry Indian plains, mixing with birds of the middle and lower Himalayas. Many species are temporarily and spatially separated but all are found in this IBA at one time of the year or another.

OTHER KEY FAUNA: Not much is know about the mammalian and reptilian fauna of this site. Leopard Panthera pardus is common, as in most of the mid- to low-level forests of Himachal Pradesh. Barking Deer Muntiacus muntjak, is its natural prey, but cattle it commonly killed, much to the resentment of villagers. Toddy Cat Paradoxurus hermaphroditus, Himalayan Yellow-throated Marten Martes flavigula, and Porcupine Hystrix indica are the smaller predators.

Monitor Lizard Varanus bengalensis is said to occur in this IBA.

Populations of IBA trigger species

Species Season Period Population estimate Quality of estimate IBA Criteria IUCN Category
White-rumped Vulture Gyps bengalensis non-breeding  2004  present  A1  Critically Endangered 
Slender-billed Vulture Gyps tenuirostris non-breeding  2004  present  A1  Critically Endangered 

IBA Monitoring

2003 low not assessed not assessed
Good - based on reliable and complete / representative data

Agriculture and aquaculture livestock farming and ranching (includes forest grazing) - small-holder grazing, ranching or farming happening now small area/few individuals (<10%) no or imperceptible deterioration low
Biological resource use gathering terrestrial plants - unintentional effects (species being assessed is not the target) happening now small area/few individuals (<10%) no or imperceptible deterioration low
Biological resource use logging & wood harvesting - unintentional effects: subsistence/small scale happening now small area/few individuals (<10%) no or imperceptible deterioration low
Natural system modifications fire & fire suppression - increase in fire frequency/intensity happening now small area/few individuals (<10%) no or imperceptible deterioration low


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

Land use

Land-use Extent (% of site)
agriculture -
Notes: Agriculture in very small plots; Tea production

Acknowledgements Key contributor: Jan Willem den Besten.


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

BirdLife International (2001) Threatened Birds of Asia: The BirdLife International Red Data Book. BirdLife International, Cambridge, U.K.

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Recommended citation  BirdLife International (2016) Important Bird and Biodiversity Area factsheet: Sarah Valley, Lower Dharamshala. Downloaded from on 26/10/2016

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