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Location India, Sikkim
Central coordinates 88o 45.28' East  28o 1.72' North
IBA criteria A1, A2, A3
Area 50,000 ha
Altitude 4,500 - 7,000m
Year of IBA assessment 2004

Bombay Natural History Society

Site description Tso Lhamo Plateau, Lashar, Sebu La and Yumesamdong complex is typical cold desert on Tibetan Plateau and trans-Himalyan facies, with high snow mountains and glaciers, lakes and geothermal springs and vast valleys with grasses, sedges, cushionoid vegetation, lichens and associated fauna. In this Reserve Forest on the international border with Tibet (China), heavy military deployment has caused a network of roads on the plateau with military establishment mostly near glacial lakes of Gyam Tsona and Tso Lhamo. The area has a short growing season from May to October with peak in July-August when most of the birds breed. This eco-region has not yet been included in the protected area network of the State and is perhaps the most threatened as it contains many endangered species (protected under Schedules I and II of the Indian Wildlife (Protection) Act 1972, such as the Tibetan Wild Ass or Kiang Equus kiang, Nayan Ovis ammon and Black-necked Crane Grus nigricollis. This IBA seeks to link the Tso Lhamo Plateau with the Lashar, Sebu La Yumesamdong section, reaching southwards to touch the Sino-Himalayan Temperate Forests below Yumesamdong and around Thangu in North Sikkim.

Key Biodiversity 

AVIFAUNA: A total of around 227 birds have been recorded from this c. 500 sq. km area, including four globally threatened species, three Restricted Range species and 93 Biome-restricted species (Ganguli-Lachungpa and Rahmani 2003). One of these, Babax waddelli, is reported only from extreme northeast Sikkim from 2,700-4,400 m in the Tibetan Plateau facies (EBA-133) in Hippophae thickets. It is found in dense deciduous scrub above tree-line and edge of coniferous forest (Stattersfield et al. 1998). It is reported as ‘locally common’ (Ali and Ripley 1987). This site in the Eastern Himalayas Endemic Bird Area is the highest altitude eco-region in Sikkim spanning two biomes, Sino- Himalayan Temperate Forest (Biome-7) and Eurasian High Montane (Alpine and Tibetan) (Biome-5) as described by BirdLife International (undated). Of the 48 Biome-5 (Eurasian High Montane - Alpine and Tibetan) species, 35 occur here and of the 112 Biome-7 (Sino-Himalayan Temperate Forest) species, at least 12 are from here. More are likely to be found after detailed investigations. The important breeding bird species recorded here are Tibetan Snowcock Tetraogallus tibetanus, Black-necked Crane Grus nigricollis, Brahminy Shelduck Tadorna ferruginea, Common Redshank Tringa totanus, Tibetan Sandgrouse Syrrhaptes tibetanus, Snow Pigeon Columba leuconota, Robin Accentor Prunella rubeculoides, Guldenstadt’s Redstart Phoenicurus erythrogaster, Plain Mountain Finch Leucosticte nemoricola, Black-headed Mountain Finch Leucosticte brandti, Mandelli’s Snowfinch Pyrgilauda taczanowskii, Tibetan Snowfinch Montifringilla adamsi, Plain-backed Snowfinch Pyrgilauda blanfordi, Rufous-necked Snowfinch Pyrgilauda ruficollis, Hume’s Groundpecker Pseudopodoces humilis, Yellow-billed Chough Pyrrhocorax graculus, Lesser Sand Plover Charadrius mongolus, Golden Eagle Aquila chrysaetos and Little Owl Athene noctua. Some of the non-breeding birds are Lesser Kestrel Falco naumanni, Bar-headed Goose Anser indicus and Common Hoopoe Upupa epops. A pair of Brown-headed Gull Larus brunnicephalus was sighted on Lake Tso Lhamo in May 2003 (U. Lachungpa pers. comm. 2003).

OTHER KEY FAUNA: The larger mammals show local migration in search of food and shelter, while strictly resident animals are generally burrowdwelling and spend the severe winter hibernating.

Important fauna include Kiang, Nayan, Tibetan Gazelle Procapra picticaudata, Blue Sheep Pseudois nayaur, Brown Bear Ursus arctos, Snow Leopard Uncia uncia, Lynx Lynx lynx, Red Fox Vulpes vulpes and Wolf Canis lupus, all nine species protected under Schedule I of the Indian Wild Life (Protection) Act 1972.

The Snow Leopard and Nayan are globally threatened. Smaller animals include Woolly Hare Lepus oiostolus, Himalayan Marmot Marmota himalayana, Himalayan Mouse-Hare Ochotona roylei, Voles Alticola spp., and Long-eared Bat Plecotus auritus. Sikkim Snow Toads Scutiger sikkimensis and S. boulengeri inhabit almost all the wetlands in the area. Interestingly, Snow Toads are found in the brackish lake Gyam Tsona, the freshwater glacial lake Tso Lhamo and also in thermally active areas like Lake Gurudongmar and the Yumesamdong hot springs found in this IBA.

Populations of IBA trigger species

Species Season Period Population estimate Quality of estimate IBA Criteria IUCN Category
Lesser Kestrel Falco naumanni passage  2004  present  A1  Least Concern 
Greater Spotted Eagle Clanga clanga winter  2004  present  A1  Vulnerable 
Black-necked Crane Grus nigricollis breeding  2004  present  A1, A3  Vulnerable 
Wood Snipe Gallinago nemoricola breeding  2004  present  A1, A3  Vulnerable 
Broad-billed Warbler Tickellia hodgsoni resident  2004  present  A2  Least Concern 
Giant Babax Babax waddelli resident  2004  present  A2, A3  Near Threatened 
Hoary-throated Barwing Actinodura nipalensis resident  2004  present  A2, A3  Least Concern 

IBA Monitoring

2014 very high near favourable negligible
Good - based on reliable and complete / representative data

Energy production and mining mining and quarrying happening now some of area/population (10-49%) very rapid to severe deterioration high
Human intrusions and disturbance recreational activities 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 majority/most of area/population (50-90%) very rapid to severe deterioration very high

Grassland   0 0 good (> 90%) moderate (70-90%) near favourable

Little/none of site covered (<10%)  No management planning has taken place  Very little or no conservation action taking place  negligible 


IUCN habitat Habitat detail Extent (% of site)
Grassland   -
Wetlands (inland)   -
Shrubland   -
Rocky areas   -

Land use

Land-use Extent (% of site)
forestry -
Notes: Forestry
military -
Notes: Military
nature conservation and research -
Notes: Nature conservation and research
tourism/recreation -
Notes: Tourism / recreation

Acknowledgements Key contributors: Tim Inskipp and Usha Lachungpa.


Ali, S. and Ripley, S. D. (1987) Compact Handbook of the Birds of India and Pakistan (Second Edition). Oxford University Press, Delhi.

Anonymous (2003) Sikkim State Biodiversity Strategy and Action Plan. Department of Forests, Environment and Wildlife, Govt. of Sikkim. Pp. 104.

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

Ganguli-Lachungpa, U. (2002) Avifauna of Trans-Himalayan and alpine grasslands in Sikkim, India. In: Birds of Wetlands and Grasslands: Proceedings of the Salim Ali Centenary Seminar, 1996 (eds. Rahmani, A. R. and Ugra, G.). Bombay Natural History Society, Mumbai. Pp. 196-207.

Ganguli-Lachungpa, U. and Rahmani, A. R. (2002) Development of Conservation Strategy for the Alpine Grasslands of Sikkim. Annual Report combined 2000-2002. Bombay Natural History Society, Mumbai, Unpublished. Pp. 53.

Ganguli-Lachungpa, U. and Rahmani, A. R. (2003) Development of Conservation Strategy for the Alpine Grasslands of Sikkim. Annual Report 2003. Bombay Natural History Society, Mumbai, Unpublished. Pp. 106.

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 International, Cambridge, UK.

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Recommended citation  BirdLife International (2016) Important Bird and Biodiversity Area factsheet: Tso Lhamo Plateau - Lashar - Sebu La - Yumesamdong Complex. Downloaded from on 28/10/2016

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