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Location Afghanistan, Badakhshan
Central coordinates 73o 0.00' East  37o 10.00' North
IBA criteria A3
Area 67,938 ha
Altitude 3,250 - 6,103m
Year of IBA assessment 1994

Site description Spectacular, rugged, barren mountains in the north-east extremity of Afghanistan (the northern side of the Wakhan Corridor) between 3,250 and 6,103 m, with glaciers, glacial lakes and scree slopes. The reserve encompasses a glaciated block of the high Pamirs, within which the valleys of Sargaz, Tulibai, Manjulak and Abakhan drain into the Pamir river to the north (which forms the border with Tajikistan). To the south lies the wide valley of the Wakhan river. A small icefield with associated glaciers is found above 4,600 m. Vegetation is sparse: damp, lower valley bottoms consist of alluvial deposits with overlying peat on which Salix thickets grow; flatter areas by glacial lakes up to 5,000 m support extensive and luxuriant boggy meadows dominated by Carex and Kobresia, growing in hummocks on peaty deposits, whilst dry slopes support a sparse alpine-steppe vegetation up to 4,600 m, and above 4,300 m an alpine-heath zone also occurs. In the 1970s an estimated 75 families used to encamp in the reserve area with c.3,500-4,500 sheep and goats and c.900 yaks and cows during the short summer for grazing.

Key Biodiversity The precise status and the sizes of populations present are not known. At least 117 species have been recorded from the Afghan Pamir (which has a Tibetan-type avifauna); 75 of these are recorded from the Pamir-i-Buzurg, and probable breeding species among them include Buteo rufinus, Aquila chrysaetos, Gyps himalayensis (possibly, though recorded as G. fulvus), Tetraogallus himalayensis, Bubo bubo, Eremophila alpestris, Motacilla citreola, Prunella himalayana, P. fulvescens, Phoenicurus erythrogaster, Tichodroma muraria, Cinclus cinclus, C. pallasii (possible), Montifringilla nivalis, Carpodacus rubicilla, Leucosticte brandti and L. nemoricola.

Non-bird biodiversity: Mammals: Lynx lynx (rare), Uncia uncia (E), Ursus arctos (rare), Canis lupus (V), Capra ibex sibericus (685 in 1972) and Ovis ammon poli (rare: 750 in the reserve area in the 1970s, out of 2,000+ in the Afghan Pamirs).

Populations of IBA trigger species

Species Season Period Population estimate Quality of estimate IBA Criteria IUCN Category
Himalayan Snowcock Tetraogallus himalayensis resident  1971-1976  frequent  A3  Least Concern 
Himalayan Griffon Gyps himalayensis resident  1971-1976  common  A3  Near Threatened 
Wallcreeper Tichodroma muraria resident  1971-1976  present  A3  Least Concern 
White-winged Redstart Phoenicurus erythrogastrus resident  1971-1976  present  A3  Least Concern 
White-winged Snowfinch Montifringilla nivalis resident  1971-1976  present  A3  Least Concern 
Rufous-streaked Accentor Prunella himalayana resident  1971-1976  present  A3  Least Concern 
Brown Accentor Prunella fulvescens resident  1971-1976  present  A3  Least Concern 
Plain Mountain-finch Leucosticte nemoricola resident  1971-1976  present  A3  Least Concern 
Black-headed Mountain-finch Leucosticte brandti resident  1971-1976  present  A3  Least Concern 
Great Rosefinch Carpodacus rubicilla resident  1971-1976  present  A3  Least Concern 

Protected areas

Protected area Designation Area (ha) Relationship with IBA Overlap with IBA (ha)  
Pamir-i-Buzurg Wildlife Reserve 67,938 is identical to site 67,938  


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

Land use

Land-use Extent (% of site)
hunting major
Notes: Hunting
rangeland/pastureland major
nature conservation and research 100%

Acknowledgements A total of 16 IBAs have been identified in Afghanistan. Responsibility for maintenance and update of the IBA information in WBDB is held by BirdLife Secretariat. The baseline survey of IBAs took place during 1991-1993 and was published in Evans (1994). The site accounts and introduction were compiled from information supplied by S. C. Madge, who acknowledges the impressive series of detailed reports compiled principally by Dr R. G. Petocz and Dr J. A. Sayer, team leaders of the National Parks and Wildlife Management Project, which was initiated at the request of the Government of Afghanistan and administered by the Food and Agriculture Organization under the United Nations Development Programme, and which ran from 1972 to 1980, although most ornithological data were collected in the latter years. Waterfowl counts are based mostly on data collected for the International Waterfowl and Wetlands Research Bureau, chiefly by F. J. Koning, during brief winter and early spring visits in 1970–1972. A. Jamil carried out a survey of Ab-i-Istada for this project, with invaluable assistance from A. Fitzherbert and J. Harris (International Crane Foundation). E. Smith supplied valuable information for the site accounts, and Dr K. Habibi reviewed the first draft of the inventory.

References Nogge (1973), Petocz (1978), Sayer and van der Zon (1981).

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

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