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Wildlife in Himachal Pradesh
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 ZoneClick thumbnail to view full-size
Red-necked Grebe (Podiceps-grisegena)
Common Rosefinch, a red colored beautiful bird spotted on the bank of river Baspa at Rakcham, Kinnaur
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.
Domesticated YaksClick thumbnail to view full-size
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.
Wildlife of Pin Valley National Park in Spiti in Great Himalayan ZoneClick thumbnail to view full-size
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.
Birds found in HimachalClick thumbnail to view full-size
Birds Found in Himachal PradeshClick thumbnail to view full-size
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.
Jujurana, the State Bird of HimachalClick thumbnail to view full-size
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.
The Himalayan Blue Sheep or Bharal
The Himalayan Blue Sheep or Bharal
Commonly known as Bharal, this wild sheep is seen mostly above 3000 meters in all sanctuary areas and outside in Kinnaur district. It prefers undulating ground and is a splendid climber with swift moves. Between the treeline and the snowline, they find their food in occasional patches of coarse grass, moss, dwarf shrubs and leaves.
The Himalayan Serow or Goat Antelope
The Himalayan Serow or Goat Antelope
The local people in Kinnaur and Shimla districts call it "Emu". It is a goat-antelope and lives solitary in thick forests or rocky hillsides, between 1500 to 3100 meters, and more commonly in the wet zone. The serow has also been reported from Kullu National Park and the forests of Chamba, Mandi, Shimla and Kinnaur districts.
The Himalayan Ghoral or Goat (Naemorhaedus goral)
The Himalayan Ghoral or Mountain Goat
Resembling a goat, the Ghoral extends its habitat from the Shivalik zone to the Middle Himalayan zone. The wildlife sanctuaries of Majathal- Harsang, and Chail have a good population of ghoral, though it is virtually found all over the state of Himachal Pradesh, up to the elevation of 2800 meters. It usually associates in small parties in four to eight, feeding on rugged grassy hillsides in the mornings and in the evenings.
Tibetan Wolf or Keulemans Chanco Wolf
The Tibetan Wolf
Essentially an animal of Great Himalayan zone, it is found in Spiti and Hangrang valley of Kinnaur district of Himachal Pradesh. A shy night prowler of the size of an ordinary sheep-dog, the locals call it "Chanku". It is a notorious killer of domestic animals and is very harmful to Bharal and Ibex. It is known to kill as many animals as it finds, irrespective of what it can eat.
This member of the cat family extends its limits from the Shivalik zone to the Middle Himalayan zone. It is sleek, short haired and agile animal. In Hamirpur district, it has become notorious, because of man-eating instances. It has adapted itself to the forested areas, as well as open countrysides. It can also be found among rocks and scrubs. It is known to lift the sheep, goat, and cattle.
The Koklash PheasantClick thumbnail to view full-size
The Koklash Pheasant
A medium-tailed pheasant, the Koklash is found on steep forested hillsides between 6000 to 12000 feet above sea level. The call of the cock from which the bird gets its local name "Kwaksha", is a loud singing like Kok-Kok-Kok-Kok ras. By and large, the pheasant is suitably adapted to the disturbances in its habitat, hence striving well for the survival.
The Shimla Water catchment area, the Daranghati sanctuary and Pandrabis area of Shimla- Kinnaur districts have a good population of this pheasant. Besides, it is also found all over the forests of Middle Himalayan zone.
The Endangered Cheer Pheasant (Catreus wallichi)Click thumbnail to view full-size
The Cheer Pheasant
This is a pheasant of the grasslands found on the sunny hillsides between 1800 to 2500 meters. The Chail sanctuary in Shimla district is its stronghold. Recently new Cheer sites have been discovered in Shimla and Kinnaur districts, the latest being the Rupi Bhaba sanctuary.
Locally it is known as "Tana" in Sarahan- Bushehr areas, and "Cheerus" in Kinnaur district. It is also an endangered species listed in the Red Data Book of IUCN. Its new sites are being confirmed with the help of a pre- recorded Cheer-broadcasting equipment in the prospective Cheer sites.
Great Himalayan National Park Part 2
Great Himalayan National Park Part 3
A few representatives as described above, illustrate the diversity of wildlife in Himachal Pradesh, ranging from the members found in the moist temperate type forests to the wildlife found on the Tibetan plateau.
An attempt is being made to protect this natural diversity by the creation of protected areas in the form of Sanctuaries and National Parks because the human population and therefore the pressure on natural resources are both rising very rapidly.
© 2014 Sanjay Sharma