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Location India, Himachal Pradesh
Central coordinates 77o 14.50' East  31o 6.00' North
IBA criteria A1, A2, A3
Area 1,025 ha
Altitude 1,500 - 3,324m
Year of IBA assessment 2004

Bombay Natural History Society

Site description This IBA is one of the few sanctuaries in the state free from human habitation, mainly due to a long history of protection and the steep terrain which discouraged human habitation. It was protected in British India as the catchment area for supply of water to Shimla, the summer capital of the British. After India’s Independence in 1947, the area came under state control and was notified as a protected forest in 1952. To the south, it is connected by a forest corridor to Chail Sanctuary (another IBA). The Sanctuary area is within the purview of the Simla Municipal Corporation. The entire Sanctuary is forested, mostly with temperate coniferous forest. Cedar Cedrus deodara is predominant, mixed with Ban Oak Quercus incana and Chir Pine Pinus roxburghii at lower altitudes, and Fir Abies pindrow, Blue Pine Pinus wallichiana, Moru Oak Quercus. dilatata and Spruce Picea smithiana at higher altitudes. Shrub and ground layers are generally well developed, with shrubs covering 50% of the area. Ground vegetation is mainly grasses, but includes a variety of ferns and forbs (Gaston 1979).

Key Biodiversity 

AVIFAUNA: Documentation on the avifauna is limited to pheasants. The density of Koklass Pheasant Pucrasia macrolopha, estimated at 17-25 pairs per sq. km in April 1979, is probably close to the maximum reached under natural conditions (Gaston et al. 1981). Similar densities were recorded by P. J. Garson in 1988. The population of Kaleej Pheasant Lophura leucomelanos also appears to be large (Gaston et al. 1981) but actual density estimates are not available. This IBA lies in the Western Himalayas Endemic Bird Areas (EBA). It also has biome-restricted species of Sino-Himalayan Temperate Forest (Biome-7) and some of Sino-Himalayan Subtropical Forest (Biome-8). BirdLife International (undated) has listed 112 species in Biome-7. From the preliminary list that we have, we could find only seven species at this site, most of them quite common and of no conservation concern. Similarly, in the Biome-8, 95 species are listed but we could find published information on the occurrence of only four species from this site. This shows the paucity of information and not paucity of bird life of this IBA. If detailed studies of birds are conducted, perhaps more biome and globally threatened species would be found in this site. This site is selected as an IBA due to the presence of the globally threatened Cheer Pheasant, and also the presence of middle-altitude forest of the lower ranges of the Western Himalayas. As we do not have much information on the general bird life, the site is considered as Data Deficient.

OTHER KEY FAUNA: Large mammals include Leopard Panthera pardus, Barking Deer or Indian Muntjak Muntiacus muntjak, and Goral Nemorhaedus goral. Non-human primates include the Rhesus Macaque Macaca mulatta and Common Langur Semnopithecus entellus. The Yellowthroated Marten Martes flavigula, and Porcupine Hystrix indica are also found (Gaston et al. 1981, 1983). Flying Squirrel Petaurista petaurista is also present, but the Himalayan Musk Deer Moschus chrysogaster, of which Gaston (1979) had found signs in this area, may be locally extinct (Green 1981).

Populations of IBA trigger species

Species Season Period Population estimate Quality of estimate IBA Criteria IUCN Category
Cheer Pheasant Catreus wallichii resident  2004  present  A1, A2, A3  Vulnerable 

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%) slow but significant 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

Protected areas

Protected area Designation Area (ha) Relationship with IBA Overlap with IBA (ha)  
Shimla Catchment Sanctuary 1,025 is identical to site 1,025  


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

Land use

Land-use Extent (% of site)
nature conservation and research -
Notes: Nature conservation and research
water management -
Notes: Water catchment

Acknowledgements Key contributor: IBA team.


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

Gaston, A. J. (1979) Preliminary reports on the results of the course on ‘Techniques for Censusing Pheasants’, 21-28 April 1979, Simla Water Catchment Area and Chail Reserve, Himachal Pradesh. Unpublished report to World Pheasant Association and Himachal Pradesh Forest Department.

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 Hunter, M. L. Jr. (1983) The status and conservation of forest wildlife in Himachal Pradesh, Western Himalayas. Biological Conservation 27: 291-314.

Green, M. J. B. (1981) Himalayan musk deer, India. Progress Report No. 7. WWF Project No. 1328. P. 14.

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 (2016) Important Bird and Biodiversity Area factsheet: Shimla Water Catchment Wildlife Sanctuary. Downloaded from on 21/10/2016

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