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Location India, Himachal Pradesh
Central coordinates 77o 34.35' East  31o 36.82' North
IBA criteria A1, A2, A3
Area 6,112 ha
Altitude 2,100 - 4,875m
Year of IBA assessment 2004

Bombay Natural History Society

Site description This high altitude Sanctuary in Kullu district is adjacent to the Great Himalayan National Park. Part of its originally declared area has now been included in the Great Himalayan National Park. The Sanctuary forms part of the catchment area of the Tirthan river. There are a great variety of forest types due to the variations in altitude. Forest types include Ban Oak Forest, Moist Deodar Forest, Western Mixed Coniferous forest, Moist Temperate Deciduous Forest, Kharsu Oak Forest and alpine pastures (Singh et al. 1990).

Key Biodiversity 

AVIFAUNA: Except for a brief description in Singh et al. (1990), not much information is available in the literature, particularly on the avifauna of this area. Western Tragopan Tragopan melanocephalus and Cheer Pheasant Catreus wallichii, two globally threatened species, are found here (R. Kaul pers. comm. 2002). Other pheasants found are Himalayan or Impeyan Monal Lophophorus impejanus, Koklass Pheasant Pucrasia macrolopha and Red Junglefowl Gallus gallus. According to the endemic bird areas of the world, described by Stattersfield et al. (1998), Tirthan WLS would come under the Western Himalayas Endemic Bird Areas (EBA). This important EBA of India has 11 Restricted Range (endemic) birds, out which three have been identified from this site. Once we have a detailed bird list, perhaps more restricted range species would be found here. This site also has biome-restricted species of Biome-7 (Sino- Himalayan Temperate Forest) and Biome-5 (Eurasian High Montane- Alpine and Tibetan). BirdLife International (undated) has listed 112 species in Biome-7. We could find evidence of only two Biome-7 species. As we do not have a good bird list of this site, we do not know how many more birds of this biome are found here. Similarly, data on Biome-5 species are also lacking. Based on the available list of mammals and the extent of forest cover available, it is likely that many restricted range and biome-restricted bird species would be present in this IBA. As it adjoins the Great Himalayan NP, where the bird life is comparatively better known (300 species of birds: Gaston et al. 1994), it is likely that similar number of birds are present in Tirthan also. Nevertheless, presently we are considering this as a Data Deficient site as far as general bird life is considered. We have included Tirthan WLS in the IBA list based on confirmed evidence of two globally threatened and one restricted range species.

OTHER KEY FAUNA: This high altitude sanctuary has records of Snow Leopard Uncia uncia and its wild ungulate prey such as Blue Sheep or Bharal Pseudois nayaur, Musk Deer Moschus chrysogaster and Himalayan Tahr Hemitragus jemlahicus. At lower elevations, Barking Deer Muntiacus muntjak, Ibex Capra sibirica and Serow Nemorhaedus sumatraensis and their predator Leopard Panthera pardus have been reported. Other species include Brown Bear Ursus arctos and Asiatic Black Bear Ursus thibetanus. The Common Giant Flying Squirrel Petaurista petaurista albiventer, Kashmir Flying Squirrel Hylopetes fimbriatus, Stone Marten Martes foina, Himalayan Weasel Mustela sibirica, Golden Jackal Canis aureus and Langur Semnopithecus entellus are some other mammal species recorded.

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 resident  2004  present  A2  Least Concern 

IBA Monitoring

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

Agriculture and aquaculture annual & perennial non-timber crops - small-holder farming happening now small area/few individuals (<10%) moderate to rapid deterioration low
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
Biological resource use logging & wood harvesting - unintentional effects: subsistence/small scale happening now some of area/population (10-49%) slow but significant deterioration medium
Energy production and mining mining and quarrying happening now small area/few individuals (<10%) very rapid to severe deterioration low
Natural system modifications fire & fire suppression - increase in fire frequency/intensity happening now small area/few individuals (<10%) slow but significant deterioration low

Protected areas

Protected area Designation Area (ha) Relationship with IBA Overlap with IBA (ha)  
Tirthan Sanctuary 6,112 is identical to site 6,112  


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

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

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.

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.

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Recommended citation  BirdLife International (2016) Important Bird and Biodiversity Area factsheet: Tirthan Wildlife Sanctuary. Downloaded from on 24/10/2016

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