Himalayan park on world heritage site shortlist (With Image)

July 16th, 2009 - 11:22 am ICT by IANS  

By Vishal Gulati
Shimla, July 16 (IANS) The Great Himalayan National Park may get global recognition, with Unesco’s world heritage committee placing it in the latest shortlist of world heritage sites.

With magnificent glaciers, lofty mountains and gurgling streams, the national park in Himachal Pradesh’s Kullu valley is one of the richest biodiversity sites in the western Himalayas.

“It is a matter of great pride for Himachal Pradesh that Unesco (UN Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organisation) has placed the Great Himalayan National Park in its tentative list of world heritage sites,” park director Ajay Srivastav told IANS.

“We hope that this will get global recognition, which will help conserve the endangered flora and fauna species in a more effective way.”

Three other parks — the Bhitarkanika Conservation Area in Orissa, the Neora Valley National Park in West Bengal and the Desert National Park in Rajasthan — are on Unesco’s tentative list too, he added.

The Kaziranga National Park and the Manas Wildlife Sanctuary in Assam, , the Keoladeo National Park in Rajasthan, the Nanda Devi and Valley of Flowers National Parks in Uttarakhand and the Sundarbans National Park in West Bengal are other areas in India that are already on Unesco’s World Heritage list.

Spread over 754 sq km, the Great Himalayan National Park is home to many rare and endangered plants and animals.

Starting at an altitude of 1,700 metres, the highest peak within the national park approaches 5,800 metres.

According to Srivastav, most of the mammals found in the park, from subtropical to alpine, are endemic to the area and protected under Schedule I of the Indian Wildlife Protection Act.

The park, notified in the year 1999, is home to 203 bird species, including the endangered western tragopan, the Himalayan monal, the koklas, the white-crested kalij and the cheer pheasant.

Then there are 31 endemic mammal species, three reptiles, nine amphibians and 127 insect species, besides 425 species of plants.

The famous mammals in the park are the leopard, the Himalayan black bear, the brown bear, the rhesus macaque and various herbivores like the goral, a small antelope, and the Himalayan tahr, a wild goat that lives in the steepest cliffs.

One of the most elusive species in the park is the snow leopard. It can be spotted in the highest portions, adjoining the Pin Valley National Park.

Rated high on the endangered species list, the musk deer is also seen in the park.

The park is also home to a large number of small mammals. They include the giant Indian flying squirrel, a nocturnal animal that roosts in tree hollows; the Indian pika, also known as mouse hare; the porcupine; the royle’s mountain vole and the Himalayan palm civet.

Himachal Pradesh Forest Minister J.P. Nadda said: “We have just cleared a preliminary examination (by getting the national park included in the tentative list). We still have to pass the main examination. We will certainly clear that test too.”

Srivastav said the best time to visit the park is April-May and September-November. The best sightings can be made after September when animals start their seasonal migration to lower altitudes.

(Vishal Gulati can be contacted at vishal.g@ians.in)

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