IUCN to inspect Great Himalayan National Park

July 18th, 2011 - 4:15 pm ICT by IANS  

Shimla, July 18 (IANS) In a move that could bring global recognition for the Great Himalayan National Park in Himachal Pradesh, a team of international wildlife experts will visit it to assess endangered flora and fauna.

A Unesco committee has already placed the national park, spread over 754 sq km in Kullu district, in the list of proposed world natural heritage sites.

“A team of the IUCN (International Union for Conservation of Nature) will visit the park in September or October for an on-the-spot evaluation of the flora and fauna the park supports,” park director Ajay Srivastav told IANS.

“This is the first time that any international evaluators are visiting the park sincle it was shortlisted for world heritage site status in 2009,” he added.

Srivastav said a communication in this regard was received recently from the Wildlife Institute of India, a nodal agency of Unesco’s world heritage committee.

With magnificent glaciers, lofty mountains and gurgling streams, the national park is one of the richest biodiversity sites in the western Himalayas.

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 also on Unesco’s tentative list.

Chief Wildlife Warden A.K. Gulati said the IUCN team would send its recommendation to the Unesco committee for final approval.

“The meeting of Unesco is tentatively scheduled in the beginning of next year. Before that IUCN would complete its formalities,” he added.

The park, notified in the year 1999, is home to 203 bird species, including the 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.

Srivastav said the population of the brilliantly plumaged western tragopan, a highly-endangered pheasant species, in the park has increased over the years.

“The encounter rate of the western tragopan has increased. This year 2.2 birds were spotted in a sq km area. It was 1.9 birds last year, while it was just .3 in 1999,” he said.

Jenifer R.B. Miller, an ornithologist from the US, recorded 1.4 western tragopans per sq km in 2008.

Likewise, the number of the cheer pheasant has increased over the years.

Sanjeeva Pandey, a former director of the park, said the park’s proposal for heritage status was initially moved in 2005.

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 and the Himalayan palm civet.

Every year, on an average, 1,000 tourists, mainly foreigners, trek the park for enjoying the idyllic, pastoral settings of the Himalayan range and spotting birds.

Srivastav said the best time to visit the park is April-May and September-November.

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