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Wildlife in Himachal Pradesh

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All Creatures Wild and Beautiful

A full range of Western Himalayan ecosystem occurs in Himachal Pradesh, which is comparatively a smaller state of India. The zone of the Shivalik range is 40 to 50 Km. wide and consists of numerous low ridges with pine and broad-leaved forests found at low latitude.

The Pir Panjal range and its associated spur, the Dhauladhar range, sometimes rise up to 6000 meters represent the middle or lesser Himalayas in the state. The temperate flora of this zone consists mainly of conifers and oak forests along with their associates.

The Great Himalayan Range Zone is arid and cold desert region of Lahaul & Spiti and the parts of Kinnaur Districts of the state.

In all the above three Western Himalayan zones, the factors such as climatic variations associated with altitude and corresponding changes in vegetation, decide the occurrence and distribution of the wildlife in Himachal Pradesh.

The wild animals and the birds found in the Shivalik zone are those which could also be found on the adjacent plains of Punjab. However, the other zones represent the species of the birds and mammalians that could be called the true mountain animals.

The harsh climate, the rough terrain, and the atmospheric pressure have made the Himalayan wildlife to get adapted to their structural needs to meet the specialized living conditions at the high altitude.

Wildlife in Shivalik Zone

This zone in Himachal Pradesh stretches from Poanta Sahib to Pathankot, bordering the states of Uttar Pradesh or Uttranchal, Haryana, and Punjab. The districts of Sirmour, Solan, Bilaspur, Hamirpur, Una and Kangra fall in the Shivalik zone.

The common species in Shivalik Hills are Sambhar deer, Barking deer, Ghoral, Wild boar, Nilgai, Rhesus Macaque. Grey languor, Jungle Cat, Leopard Cat, Leopard Martins, Mongoose, Porcupine, Jackal, and Hyena.In moist sal forests near Poanta Sahib, a few small groups of spotted deer (cheetal) also occur.An occasional tiger is reported to visit these forests from the nearest Rajaji National Park in Uttar Pradesh.

The avian fauna in Shivalik is quite varied. The white crested Kalaji and Red jungle fowl are found together at an altitude of 500 meters above sea level. The peacocks are scanty in their distribution. Black and Grey Partridges and Quails are in plenty. Among others, there are thousands of migratory ducks, geese, and waders which come for the wintering in the lakes in this zone. A variety of Flycatchers, Thrushes, Sparrows, Manias, Larks, Wagtails, Warblers, kangraCuckoos, Owls, and Raptors are also found in this zone, and most of their population is residential and a part migratory.

There are 8 wildlife sanctuaries in this zone including the Govind Sagar lake ( at Bilaspur ) and Pong dam lakeKangra). The other 6 sanctuaries are,

1. Naina Devi in Bilaspur district.

2. Renuka and Simbalabara in Sirmour district.

3. Darlaghat, Majathal Harsang and Shill in Solan district.

A special mention may be made here of Red-necked-Grebe ( Podiceps Griesegena ), which was sighted first in 1985 at Pong dam lake bird sanctuary for the first time in India. In 1960, when the Pong dam was built on the river Beas, the vast stretches of the lake thus formed have started intercepting thousands of waterfowls and the waders on their trans-Himalayan migration from Siberia and Central Asia to the Indian plains the months of winter.

Common Rosefinch, a red colored beautiful bird spotted on the bank of river Baspa at Rakcham, Kinnaur

Wildlife in The Middle Himalayan and Great Himalayan Zone

The high hills of Shimla, Mandi. Kullu, Chamba and Kinnaur district constitute the Middle Himalayan zone. The maximum number of 21 sanctuaries are located in this zone, which has a typical temperate flora and fauna.

The five sanctauries in Chamba district are

(1) Gamgul-Siya behi, (2) Kungti, (3) Sechu-Tuan- Nalga, (4) Kalatop- Khajiar, (5) Tundan.

The Kullu district has a diatinction of having J.L.Nehru Great Himalayan National Park alongwith 5 sanctuaries viz.

(1) Kanawar, (2) Khokhan, (3) Kais, (4) Manali, (5) Tirthan.

The high reaches of Kinnaur district has three sanctuaries namely,

(1) Lippa-Asrang, (2) Sangla valley, and (3) Rupi-Bhaba.

The Mandi district has three sanctuaries viz.

(1) Bandli. (2) Nargu, and (3) Shikari Devi.

The Shimla district also has three sanctuaries viz.

(1) Daranghati, (2) Shimla Water Catchment Area, and (3) Talra.

The prestigious sanctuary of Chail is in Solan district and is famous for its Cheer Pheasant and Ghoral.

The Churadhar sanctuary extends into adjoining districts of Sirmaur and Shimla.

The Lahaul and Spiti district has Pin Valley National Park and the Kibber Wildlife Sanctuary, named after the Kibber village and Kibber monastery.Established in 1992, it is at an altitude of 4270 meters in a narrow valley on the summit of a limestone rock and is about 16 kilometers from Kaza and has an area of 140050 hectares, with the elevation range of 3,600 to 6,700 meters.

The Great Himalayan National Park of Kullu and Pin Valley National Park of Lahaul & Spiti

Spread over an area of 1,171 square km and lying at an altitude of 1500 to 6000 meters, the Great Himalayan National Park was built in 1984 Kullu district. It is a habitat for numerous flora and more than 375 species of fauna. No hunting is permitted within the park because it is protected according to the provisions of the Wildlife Protection Act of 1972. The secluded Sainj and Tirthan valleys are home to a plethora of fauna like the wild mountain goats namely like bharal, goral and serow; the brown bear; and predators like the leopard and the elusive snow leopard. Besides different varieties of pheasants like monal, khalij cheer, western tragopan, and other exotic Himalayan birds can also be found in the region.

The secluded Sainj and Tirthan valleys are home to a plethora of fauna like the wild mountain goats namely like bharal, goral and serow; the brown bear; and predators like the leopard and the elusive snow leopard. Besides different varieties of pheasants like monal, khalij cheer, western tragopan, and other exotic Himalayan birds can also be found in the region.

Located in Lahaul & Spiti district of Himachal Pradesh, the Pin Valley National Park in Spiti valley is representative of The Great Himalayan zone, essentially to conserve the habitat and the wildlife of high altitude cold desert. It was declared a National Park in 1987 and is located in the treeless and cold desert region of the Spiti valley. The park has the unexplored snow laden peaks and higher ranges and towards the south, it extends up to and along the border of Tibet, while the elevation of the park is between 3500 to 6000 meters. It is a natural habitat for a number of endangered animals like the Snow leopard and the Siberian Ibex. The vegetation in the area is very rare, due to extreme temperatures caused by high altitude. Only the alpine trees and patches of Himalayan cedar and bushes are found here.During summer, the rare birds like the snow partridges, Himalayan snow cock, snow finch etc are found in the area.

The wildlife species of Shivalik zone such as Barking deer, Ghoral, Sambhar, Leopard cat, White-crested kilij pheasant, Black partridge etc. extend their distribution right into this zone. The main species of this zone are quite exclusive and include the Himalayan tahr serow, Bharal, Musk deer, Brown bear, Monal pheasant, Western tragopan, Koklash pheasant and Himalayan snow cock.

A majority of these live on high altitude forested slopes between 2500 to 4000 meter above sea level, that is the transition areas cutting across tree-lines and alpine pastures and the precipitous exposed slopes.

The State Animal of Himachal Pradesh found at Pin Valley National Park and Rupi Bhaba Sanctuary

The Snow Leopard

This yellowish gray animal with dark rings all over the body and a long bushy tail inhabit the high altitude areas between 3000 to 5500 meters. The Pin valley National Park and Rupi Bhaba sanctuary are the selected areas for a special govt of India sponsored Snow Leopard Project. It prefers rocky and craggy areas hence the name snow leopard is somewhat a misnomer. It preys upon sheep, goat, ibex, blue sheep, hare, nd rodents.

The Monal Pheasant

A very colorful and attractive bird the Monal pheasant is found throughout the Middle Himalayan zone between 6000 to 12000 feet above sea level, according to the season. In its natural habitat, the Monal pheasant remains single or in parties of three or four consisting of a cock and two or three hens or all of the same sex, dig vigorously for food with their powerful bills on the edges of alpine pastures often in the same clearings.

In the past, it was persecuted for its crest which is made of wire-like spatula-tipped feathers and meat. For its protection and propagation the state Govt. had earlier declared it a protected state bird, but now the status of state bird has been bestowed to the Western Horned Tragopan or Jajurana.

The Western Horned Tragopan or Jajurana

Locally known as Fulgar in Chamba and Kangra districts, Jajurans in Kullu district, Jyazi in the erstwhile parts of Bushahr state of Shimla district, the Western Horned Tragopan is a rare and an endemic pheasant to the Western Himalayas. It has been listed endangered in the Red Data Book of IUCN.

During the last three years, it has been sighted in The Ravi catchment area of Chamba and the Satluj catchment area of Sarahan and Rampur Bushahr. The eastern distribution limit of the species extends up to the Sangla valley forests beyond which its existence in the Garhwal Himalayas is questionable.

The occurrence of the species in the forest is a remarkable indicator of a healthy and undisturbed forest, with a good undergrowth mostly of bamboo, and the luxurious undergrowth of high-altitude conifers especially fur and spruce. It is found at an altitude of 2200 to 3000 meters.

The Himalayan Tahr

The Himalayan Tahr

This shaggy and heavily built wild goat with short curving horns inhabits the steep cliffs in the forested terrain and never goes above the tree-line. It is found in the high mountains of Shimla, Kinnaur, Chamba and Kullu districts of Himachal Pradesh. Its altitudinal range is 2000 to 3270 meters. The leopard is a major predator of Tahr population living below the tree-line.

The Himalayan Blackbear

The Himalayan Black Bear

This animal commonly inhabits the oak forests from 1800 to 2500 meters, throughout Himachal Pradesh. It is considered as a savage animal by the villagers for its raids in the fields and occasional attacks on human beings, even without provocation. Their activities in winter get considerably reduced when they go into hibernation.

The Himalayan Brown Bear

Himalayan Brown Bear

It inhabits the alpine and sub- alpine zones of the Western Himalayas.There are the confirmed reports of its distribution in Ropa, Baspa and Bhaba valleys of Kinnaur district and the whole sanctuary areas of Chamba district. It hibernates from December until April or May.

The Himalayan Ibex (Capra sibirica)

The Himalayan Ibex

This is a common mammal of Lahaul & Spiti district, though it is also found in the adjoining areas of Kinnaur, Kullu and Chamba districts. It is commonly known as Tangrol or Kin in Lahaul & Spiti. It is a heavily built, strong and sturdy goat with large scimitar-like horns. Like Bhural its range extends into the Great Himalayan zone. The eastern limit of Ibex distribution is set by the upper reaches of the Sutlej river, east of which it does not occur.

The Musk Deer

The Musk Deer

Commonly known as "Mushaknafa", this animal has been persecuted for the musk, which is an abnormal gland found only in the males. For its protection and further propagation the state Govt had earlier declared it a state animal but now this status has been bestowed to the snow leopard. This solitary and secretive animal could be found only in the Middle Himalayan zone, between the elevation of 2200 and 4000 meters above sea level.