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Location India, Uttaranchal
Central coordinates 79o 58.00' East  30o 21.05' North
IBA criteria A1, A2
Area 62,462 ha
Altitude 2,100 - 7,817m
Year of IBA assessment 2004

Bombay Natural History Society

Site description The Nanda Devi Biosphere Reserve is situated in the Kumaon and Garhwal regions of Western Himalayas, in the districts of Chamoli, Pithoragarh and Almora. It covers an area of 586,069 ha, with two core zones, the Nanda Devi National Park (62,462 ha) and Valley of Flowers National Park (8800 ha), and an outer buffer zone of 514,857 ha. Here we consider only the Nanda Devi NP as an IBA. The Valley of Flowers NP has been considered as a separate IBA. The Sanctuary is one of the most spectacular wilderness areas in the Himalayas. Nanda Devi (7,817 m), a natural monument, and India’s second highest peak, stands high above the basin of the Rishi Ganga river, which has cut for itself one of the finest gorges in the world. Unlike many other Himalayan areas, it is largely free from human settlement and has remained unspoiled due to its inaccessibility, particularly the forests of the lower Rishi Valley. Nanda Devi National Park meets Criteria (iii) and (iv) of the World Heritage Convention, based on its exceptional natural beauty and populations of rare and threatened mammals (IUCN Technical Evaluation). Access to Nanda Devi National Park is very difficult, due to a series of high ridges with peaks such as Lata, Jhandidhar, Dunagiri, Kalanka, Rishiparvat, Nanda Devi East, Nanda Khata and Trishul, which also form the boundary of the core zone. Thus, not only is Nanda Devi protected by law, but its geographic features act as an effective obstacle to human and livestock entry.

Key Biodiversity 

AVIFAUNA: A total of 112 bird species has been recorded from Nanda Devi, 83 within the Biosphere Reserve and 29 around Joshimath and the oak forest at Auli (Sankaran 1995). Sankaran (1995) found that species richness was highest in temperate forests with 47 species (37%), 24 of which were seen only in this habitat dominated by oak, fir, birch and rhododendron. The species richness of this habitat is likely to be much higher, as this was the least surveyed of all habitat types. Sub-alpine forest ranked next in species richness with 43 species recorded by Sankaran (1995), 18 of which were seen only in this habitat type. Nine species (8%), from a total of 32 recorded, were exclusive to the alpine pastures. Only 20 species (8 exclusively) were recorded in degraded forest and agricultural land. This indicates that the majority of species found in this Park are specialists requiring primary forest cover (Sankaran 1995). Almost all species of avifauna in the Himalaya show altitudinal migration, ascending to subalpine and alpine areas in summer to breed, and descending to temperate and tropical areas in the winter. Three species of pheasants are reported from this Park: Cheer Pheasant Catreus wallichii, Himalayan Monal Lophophorus impejanus and Koklass Pheasant Pucrasia macrolopha. While the former is globally threatened, and considered Vulnerable by BirdLife International (2001), the latter two are still common in the Western Himalayas. Other Galliformes include Snow Partridge Lerwa lerwa and Himalayan Snowcock Tetraogallus himalayensis (Sankaran 1995). Sankaran (1995) did not find Cheer Pheasant during his survey of the higher reaches of Nanda Devi, but it is reported from slopes near Reni village. Nanda Devi NP lies in the Western Himalayas (Endemic Bird Area 128) (Stattersfield et al. 1998). In this EBA, a suit of 11 species has been listed, of which only two species could be found here. However, as Sankaran (1995) has pointed out, further studies are required to provide a comprehensive bird list for this interesting site. This site has been designated an IBA on the basis of A1 and A2 criteria, but it could qualify under A3 (biome-restricted assemblage) also.

OTHER KEY FAUNA: The most important mammal is the Snow Leopard Uncia uncia, which occurs in the alpine and subalpine zones. Its main natural prey is Blue Sheep Pseudois nayaur, Musk Deer Moschus chrysogarter and Himalayan Tahr Hemitragus jemlahicus. Tak and Kumar (1987) and Sathyakumar (1993) have described general wildlife, especially mammals.

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 resident  2004  present  A2  Least Concern 

IBA Monitoring

2003 high 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 majority/most of area/population (50-90%) slow but significant deterioration high
Biological resource use hunting & collecting terrestrial animals - intentional use (species being assessed is the target) happening now small area/few individuals (<10%) slow but significant deterioration low
Human intrusions and disturbance recreational activities 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)  
Nanda Devi National Park 62,460 is identical to site 62,460  
Nanda Devi UNESCO-MAB Biosphere Reserve 1,758,207 protected area contains site 62,462  
Nanda Devi and Valley of Flowers National Parks World Heritage Site 71,210 protected area contains site 62,462  


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

Land use

Land-use Extent (% of site)
nature conservation and research -
Notes: Nature conservation and research
rangeland/pastureland -
Notes: Grazing
tourism/recreation -
Notes: Tourism and recreation

Acknowledgements Key contributors: Dhananjay Mohan, Rashid S. Raza and S. Sathyakumar.


BirdLife International (2001) Threatened Birds of Asia: The BirdLife International Red Data Book. BirdLife International, Cambridge, U.K.

Sankaran, R. (1995) Ornithological survey of Nanda Devi National Park, India. Forktail 10: 115-128.

Sathyakumar, S. (1993) Status of mammals in Nanda Devi National Park. Pp. 5-15 in Corps of Engineers’ scientific and ecological expedition to Nanda Devi National Park. New Delhi: Corps of Engineers.

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.

Tak, P. C. and Kumar, G. (1987) Wildlife of Nanda Devi National Park: an update. Indian J. Forestry 10: 184-190.

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Recommended citation  BirdLife International (2016) Important Bird and Biodiversity Area factsheet: Nanda Devi Biosphere Reserve. Downloaded from on 24/10/2016

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