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Location India, Rajasthan
Central coordinates 70o 45.02' East  26o 34.68' North
IBA criteria A1, A3
Area 316,200 ha
Altitude 0
Year of IBA assessment 2004

Bombay Natural History Society

Site description In order to protect the fauna and flora of the Thar Desert, the Government of India in the late 1970s started planning the establishment of a large sanctuary or a park where human pressure could be kept to a minimum and the wildlife could be given maximum security from hunters as well as from habitat alteration. The Desert Wildlife Sanctuary (popularly called Desert National Park) was the result of this planning. It is among the one of the three protected areas of the Thar Desert (Rahmani 1997). It was notified in 1984 and it was planned to gradually upgrade it to a Park, hence its popular name Desert National Park. One of the main purposes of establishing this Park was to protect the Great Indian Bustard Ardeotis nigriceps. The major objective of the Park is to develop core areas (enclosures) in which human interference is kept to a minimum and livestock grazing is totally banned. In the initial stages, Sam, Sudasari, Phulia, and Miyajlar enclosures were established. Every year, the Forest Department is adding new enclosures. Presently, there are 28 enclosures. Besides the enclosures within the Park, there are six enclosures outside the boundary, which are called satellite conservation areas (Rahmani 1989, 1997).

Key Biodiversity 

AVIFAUNA: This is perhaps one of the most important sites for the long-term survival of the globally threatened Great Indian Bustard. In the 1980s, there could have been between 200 to 400 Great Indian Bustards in and around this sprawling Park, but now the number has gone down to about 100. However, the bustard still breeds in many parts of the Park, especially in Sudasari, Sam and Miyajlar enclosures. Even now, if poaching and habitat degradation are stopped, increase in the number of bustards is possible. Other birds of conservation interest are the two Gyps species of vultures that are still seen in the Park, although not in their former numbers. This site is also important for the Vulnerable Stoliczka’s Bushchat Saxicola macrorhyncha. It has been seen in Sudasari, Sam and Nibha areas of the Park (Rahmani 1996a). There are stray records of Green Munia Amandava formosa (Rahmani 1996b). Among the Near Threatened species, the most notable is the Macqueen’s or Houbara Bustard Chlamydotis macqueeni (= undulata). Although population estimates for the Park are difficult to make, overall in the Thar Desert, Rahmani (1998) estimated a crude density of 0.31 Houbara/km² based on actual sightings and 1.05 Houbara/km² based on sightings and Houbara tracks. Houbara are regularly found in small groups of 3-5 birds in winter in Sudasari and Sam enclosures. The Red-headed or King Vulture Sarcogyps calvus is widespread but generally seen solitary or in twos or threes. Two nests were found in February near Sudasari inside the Park (Rahmani 1997). The Cinereous Vulture Aegypius monachus is widespread in winter, along with the Eurasian Griffon Gyps fulvus and other species of vultures. This Park represents the typical desert ecosystem flora and fauna of the Indian Thar Desert, which is a part of the much larger Saharo- Sindian Desert. BirdLife International (undated) has identified it as Biome-13 and has listed 11 bird species. Including the Great Indian Bustard and Stoliczka’s Buchchat, six more species of this Biome have been found in the Desert NP. The Greater Hoopoe Lark Alaemon alaudipes probably breeds here, as its display was seen just outside the Park in July (Rahmani 1997). Another interesting bird found breeding was the Cream-coloured Courser Cursorius cursor (Rahmani and Manakadan 1989). For both these species, the Thar desert is the easternmost limit of their wide distribution from Morocca in North Africa to the whole of the Middle East, and then Iran to India.

OTHER KEY FAUNA: Among the large mammals, Chinkara Gazella bennettii is the most common. Thanks to the development of the Indira Gandhi Nahar Project (IGNP), and increase in irrigation fields, Bluebul Boselaphus tragocamelus has been increasingly sighted. Golden Jackal Canis aureus, Red Fox Vulpes vulpes pusilla and, in some areas, the Indian Fox Vulpes bengalensis are the major natural predators. The Desert Cat Felis silvestris is also found but is difficult to sight. Desert Hare Lepus nigricollis dayanus, a subspecies of the Black-naped Hare, and the Long-eared Hedgehog Hemiechinus auritus are among smaller denizens of the Park.

The Desert Skink Ophiomorus tridactylus, known as sandfish as it ‘swims’ or burrows through sand down to a depth of 30 cm, is found here. There are over 43 species of reptiles, including the Spiny-tailed Lizard Uromastyx hardwickii, Russell’s Viper Daboia russelii, Saw-scaled Viper Echis carinata and the Common Monitor Lizard Varanus bengalensis.

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 
Greater Spotted Eagle Clanga clanga winter  2004  present  A1  Vulnerable 
Indian Vulture Gyps indicus non-breeding  2004  present  A1  Critically Endangered 
Great Indian Bustard Ardeotis nigriceps resident  2004  present  A1, A3  Critically Endangered 
Chlamydotis undulata winter  2004  present  A1  Not Recognised 
White-browed Bushchat Saxicola macrorhynchus resident  2004  present  A1, A3  Vulnerable 

IBA Monitoring

2014 high favourable medium
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%) slow but significant deterioration low
Agriculture and aquaculture livestock farming and ranching (includes forest grazing) - small-holder grazing, ranching or farming happening now some of area/population (10-49%) slow but significant deterioration medium
Energy production and mining renewable energy happening now some of area/population (10-49%) very rapid to severe deterioration high
Invasive & other problematic species, genes & diseases problematic native species/diseases - named species happening now some of area/population (10-49%) slow but significant deterioration medium

Desert   0 0 good (> 90%) good (> 90%) favourable
Shrubland   0 0 good (> 90%) good (> 90%) favourable

Whole area of site (>90%) covered by appropriate conservation designation  A comprehensive and appropriate management plan exists that aims to maintain or improve the populations of qualifying bird species  Some limited conservation initiatives are in place  medium 

Protected areas

Protected area Designation Area (ha) Relationship with IBA Overlap with IBA (ha)  
Desert National Park 316,200 is identical to site 316,200  


IUCN habitat Habitat detail Extent (% of site)
Desert   -
Shrubland   -
Grassland   -
Artificial - terrestrial   -

Land use

Land-use Extent (% of site)
energy production and mining -
Notes: ONGC oil exploration
nature conservation and research -
Notes: Nature conservation and research
tourism/recreation -
Notes: Tourism and recreation
urban/industrial/transport -
Notes: Human habitation
water management -
Notes: Water canal

Acknowledgements Key contributor: Asad R. Rahmani.


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

Rahmani, A. R. (1989) The Uncertain Future of the Desert National Park in Rajasthan, India. Environmental Conservation 16 (3): 237-244.

Rahmani, A. R. (1996a) Status and distribution of Stoliczka’s Bushchat Saxicola macrorhyncha in India. Forktail 12: 61-77.

Rahmani, A. R. (1996b) Sight Record of Green Munia Amandava formosa in the Desert National Park, Jaisalmer, Rajasthan. J. Bombay Nat. Hist. Soc. 93(2): 298-299 Rahmani, A. R. (1997) Wildlife in the Thar, World Wide Fund for Nature, New Delhi. Pp. 1-100.

Rahmani, A. R. (1998) Status survey of the Houbara Bustard Chlamydotis undulata macqueenii in the Thar desert of India. Final Report. Pp. 39. World Wide Fund for Nature-India and Bombay Nat. Hist. Soc. Mumbai.

Rahmani, A. R. and Manakadan, R. (1989) Breeding records of the Cream-coloured Courser from India. J. Bombay Nat. Hist. Soc. 86: 447.

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Recommended citation  BirdLife International (2016) Important Bird and Biodiversity Area factsheet: Desert National Park. Downloaded from on 26/10/2016

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