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Location India, Uttaranchal
Central coordinates 80o 16.47' East  29o 40.77' North
IBA criteria A1, A2
Area 209,993 ha
Altitude 700 - 7,000m
Year of IBA assessment 2004

Bombay Natural History Society



Site description Askot Wildlife Sanctuary (WLS) in Pithoragarh district lies at the junction of the Western and Central Himalayas and covers three biomes: Eurasian High Montane (Alpine and Tibetan) (Biome-5), Sino-Himalayan Subtropical Forests (Biome-8) and Sino- Himalayan Temperate Forests (Biome-7). It has an area of c. 59,993 ha, with agricultural land comprising approximately 8,500 ha, 28,943 ha under reserve forests and 22,550 ha comprising forests under the revenue authorities. The Askot WLS has two ranges: Askot and Dharchula. About 15,000 ha of the area in Dharchula range along the international border is under the control of the Indo-Tibetan Border Police and Indian Army. Thus, less than 50% of the total area is under the control of the Forest Department. The Sanctuary was notified in July 1986, and covers three major watersheds: Kali, East Dhauli and Goriganga. A large part of the Gori valley (total area 224,000 ha), about 143,900 ha or 64.24% of the entire basin, is constituted of village common, land that is administered by village forest councils or Van Panchayats. Another 8% is under reserved forests, which include portions of such valuable protected areas as the Nandadevi National Park (62,500 ha), the core zone of the Nandadevi Biosphere Reserve, a World Heritage Site, and the Askot Wildlife Sanctuary. About 34,700 ha in the Gori basin, that is classified as Civil Benaap, falls under the Askot WLS. In all, these village commons, reserve forests and civil and Soyam land under the Sanctuary area, make almost 88% of the Goriganga basin as protected areas, both by village communities, as well as the State. In about a hundred kilometers from its confluence with river Kali to its source at Milam glacier, the river passes through the Dry Alpine meadows with Trans-Himalayan characteristics to subtropical Sal forests. Thus exceptional diversity of flora and fauna are encountered in the basin in a short geographical distance. Two of the important areas surrounding Askot WLS are the Kalamuni ridge, and the Athansi, Golpha and Madkani blocks of North Pithoragarh. Athansi, Madkani and Golpha reserved forest blocks of Pithoragarh Forest Division have an area of 1,832 ha, 1,287 ha and 1,365 ha respectively. These are situated north of Munsyari in Pithoragarh on the slopes of the Panchachuli massif, which rises to c. 7000 m. The Athansi block is located close to the catchment of Ralam Gad (a left bank tributary of Goriganga) while Madkani and Golpha are located east of Athansi block. The three areas are linked by the intermediate alpine zone, which has the administrative status of civil forests. The three forest blocks mentioned above have a range of vegetation communities from Ban Oak (Quercus leucotrichophora) forest to alpine vegetation. The Golpha block has a rare vegetation community: the Himalayan Hemlock (Tsuga dumosa) forests. This community is also found in the Askot Sanctuary. The sub-alpine forests of Athansi block have been rated as the second ranking area, and those in the Madkani block as the fourth ranking area in the timber line zone of Uttaranchal hills on the basis of botanical criteria like richness, representativeness, naturalness, uniqueness and endemism (Dhar et al.1997). The area has special conservation value, being the eastern most protected area in the Western Himalayas in India and, it represents the western limits of many eastern floral communities such as Tsuga and Macaranga. Kalamuni ridge in Pithoragarh Forest Division is a large area of moist temperate and alpine forests. It is known to harbour the Satyr Tragopan Tragopan satyra, White-throated Tit Aegithalos niveogularis and abundant populations of Himalayan Monal Lophophorus impejanus. The forests of Kalamuni ridge are rich in floral and faunal elements. Khulia area has large patches of Birch-Rhododendron forests, due to which the area was proposed as a sanctuary. Due to the great altitudinal variation and representaion of nearly all major West Himalayan forest types, from Sal forests to alpine (sometimes on a single slope, e.g. Chiplakot ridge) there is an abundant representation of Himalayan avifaunal and other faunal elements. This, combined with high contiguity of forest cover, makes Askot one of the most important birds areas of India.

Key Biodiversity 

AVIFAUNA: A consolidated list of the observations of Sultana and Khan (2000), Foundation for Ecological Security (2002) and Rashid Raza of the Wildlife Institute of India (pers. comm. 2003), gives a total of 227 (212 breeding, forest dependent) bird species in 30 families and 118 genera, representing more than 45% of the breeding bird diversity of the Western Himalaya and nearly 55% of breeding This assemblage represents 2 out of 11 West Himalayan restricted range species (Stattersfield et al.1998), including globally threatened Cheer pheasant Catreus wallichii. Overall, this IBA site has 17 species that are rare or uncommon in the Himalayas. The site has 81 biome species belonging to Biome-5, Biome-7 and Biome-8. These species represent 71% of all biome restricted species recorded in Kumaon.

OTHER KEY FAUNA: The Sanctuary harbours the typical fauna of Himalayan forests as well as alpine pastures. Some of the rare and endangered species found in the Sanctuary are Musk Deer Moschus chrysogaster, Snow Leopard Uncia uncia, Himalayan Tahr Hemitragus jemlahicus, Bharal or Blue Sheep Pseudois nayaur, Goral Nemorhaedus goral, Serow Nemorhaedus sumatraensis, Asiatic Black Bear Ursus thibetanus and Brown Bear Ursus arctos.

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  Vulnerable 
White-throated Tit Aegithalos niveogularis 2004  present  A2  Least Concern 

Protected areas

Protected area Designation Area (ha) Relationship with IBA Overlap with IBA (ha)  
Askot Musk Deer Sanctuary 59,993 unknown 59,993  

Local conservation groups The local conservation group below is working to support conservation at this IBA.

Name Year formed
Himal Prakriti-(Askot Wildlife Sanctuary and Goriganga Basin) 0

Habitats

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

Land use

Land-use Extent (% of site)
forestry -
Notes: Forest panchayats and grazing lands
nature conservation and research -
Notes: Nature conservation and research

Acknowledgements Key contributors: Rashid H. Raza, Dhananjai Mohan, S. Sathyakumar and G. S. Rawat.

References 

Dhar, U. Rawal, R. S. and Samant, S. S. (1997) Structural diversity and representativeness of forest vegetation in a protected area of Kumaon Himalaya, India: Implications for conservation. Biodiversity & Conservation 6, 1045-1062.

Foundation for Ecological Security (2002) A biodiversity Log and strategy input document for the Gori river basin. Western Himalayan Ecoregion, District Pithoragarh, Uttaranchal. Submitted to The MOEF, GOI. New Delhi.

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 Series No. 7. BirdLife International, U.K.

Sultana, A. and Khan, J. A. (2000) Birds of Oak forests in the Kumaon Himalaya, Uttar Pradesh, India. Forktail No. 16. 131-139 bird species of the Kumaon Himalaya. This is a remarkable representation of Himalayan avifaunal diversity. The lower altitude areas are still under-explored, and, the list would be much longer once areas below 1500 m are properly surveyed.

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Recommended citation  BirdLife International (2014) Important Bird Areas factsheet: Askot Wildlife Sanctuary and Goriganga Basin. Downloaded from http://www.birdlife.org on 21/12/2014

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