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Location Afghanistan, Badakhshan
Central coordinates 74o 20.00' East  37o 5.00' North
IBA criteria A3, A4i
Area 200,000 ha
Altitude 4,000 - 6,000m
Year of IBA assessment 1994

Site description This area forms the eastern tip of the Wakhan Corridor, separating China, Pakistan and Tajikistan and encompassing the valleys of the Aksu and Waghir rivers at 4,000-6,000 m. The Aksu flows east out of Chaqmatin lake and joins the Pamir river in Tajikistan; the Waghir drains the adjoining mountains and eventually flows into the Wakhan river a little further west. The mountains are more smoothly rounded on the Tajikistan border but are more rugged to the south bordering Pakistan and China. The area is surrounded by the impressive barren Pamir mountains and contains the lakes of Zor Kol and Chaqmatin. The northern mountains lack the dramatic glaciers and icefields of the Pamir-i-Buzurg (see site 003) but these are present in the mountains bordering China. Vegetation seems to be similar to that of Pamir-i-Buzurg (see site 003). The people of the Small Pamir are Kirghiz and numbered c.2,000 in the 1970s. Much of the lower part of the area has long been heavily grazed by their livestock. The region is one of the great historical crossroads of Central Asia, with numerous passes to the south into Pakistan.

Key Biodiversity Zor Kol and Chaqmatin lake are particularly important features ornithologically. The precise status and population sizes of important bird species present in the area are not known. At least 117 species are recorded from the Afghan Pamir, which has a Tibetan-type avifauna, and 65 of these are recorded from the Small Pamir, of which the following breed or probably breed: Tadorna ferruginea, Netta rufina, Mergus merganser, Aquila chrysaetos, Gyps himalayensis (presumably; recorded as G. fulvus), Falco pelegrinoides, Tetraogallus himalayensis, Charadrius mongolus, Columba leuconota, C. rupestris, Bubo bubo, Eremophila alpestris, Motacilla citreola, Prunella himalayana, P. fulvescens, Phoenicurus erythrogaster, Phylloscopus collybita sindianus, Luscinia svecica, Oenanthe deserti, Tichodroma muraria, Cinclus cinclus, Montifringilla nivalis and Leucosticte brandti. The area is a flyway for Grus grus ('hundreds'), and Aquila nipalensis is a passage migrant in unspecified numbers. Although it has been suggested that the last few Indian-wintering Grus leucogeranus may migrate through with G. grus (Petocz 1978), based on local people’s reports of the species in western Nuristan (Petocz and Larsson 1978; see site 007), it seems more likely that the species migrates through the mountains of northern Afghanistan via Salang Kotal (see site 005) given the known pattern of records north of this region (K. Habibi, pers. comm.).

Non-bird biodiversity: Mammals: the Afghan Pamir is very important for Uncia uncia (E), Capra ibex sibericus and Ovis ammon poli (rare).

Populations of IBA trigger species

Species Season Period Population estimate Quality of estimate IBA Criteria IUCN Category
Himalayan Snowcock Tetraogallus himalayensis resident  1971-1976  present  A3  Least Concern 
Bar-headed Goose Anser indicus breeding  1971-1976  50 adults only  poor  A4i  Least Concern 
Himalayan Griffon Gyps himalayensis resident  1971-1976  common  A3  Near Threatened 
Common Crane Grus grus passage  1971-1976  90-160 individuals  poor  A4i  Least Concern 
Snow Pigeon Columba leuconota resident  1971-1976  present  A3  Least Concern 
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 breeding  1971-1976  present  A3  Least Concern 
Brown Accentor Prunella fulvescens resident  1971-1976  present  A3  Least Concern 
Black-headed Mountain-finch Leucosticte brandti resident  1971-1976  present  A3  Least Concern 


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)
agriculture minor
Notes: Agric/cultiv/Rangeland: Primarily rangeland
hunting minor
Notes: Hunting
rangeland/pastureland major
Notes: Agric/cultiv/Rangeland: Primarily rangeland
other minor
Notes: collection of eggs of Anser indicus

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.

Related state of the world's birds case studies

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: Small Pamir. Downloaded from on 27/10/2016

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