The Great Himalayan National Park , Himachal Pradesh , India
The Great Himalayan National Park (GHNP) is located in the Kullu District of Himachal Pradesh, India. Initially constituted in 1984, GHNP was formally declared a National Park in 1999, covering an area of 754.4 sq kms. In 1994, two major changes were made in land use around the Park. A buffer zone of 5 km from the Park’s western boundary, covering 265.6 sq km. and including 2,300 households in 160 villages, was delineated as an Ecozone. Most of the population (about 15,000 to 16,000 people) in the Ecozone are poor and dependent on natural resources for their livelihoods.
The second change was the creation of the Sainj Wildlife Sanctuary (90 sq km) around the three villages of Shagwar, Shakti, and Marore. On the southern edge of the GHNP, another Protected Area (PA) was declared, known as Tirthan Wildlife Sanctuary. This covers 65 sq km and is without habitation. More recently, in 2010, both the Sainj and Tirthan Wildlife Sanctuaries were added to GHNP, but will not be formally incorporated until a process known as settlement of rights has occurred. Thus the initiated merger of Sainj and Tirthan Wildlife Sanctuaries with GHNP will be followed by a process of settlement to relocate inhabitants and make the area free of traditional pressures, which may take some time. The total area under Park administration (National Park, Wildlife Sanctuaries and Ecozone) is 1171 sq km, which is together referred to as the Great Himalayan National Park Conservation Area (GHNPCA).
In 2010, an area of 710 sq km of the Parvati river catchment contiguous to the northern boundary of GHNP was initially notified as the Khirganga National Park, adding significant biological diversity, conservation value, and physical protection to GHNP. The boundaries of GHNP are also contiguous with the Pin Valley National Park (675 sq km) in Trans-Himalaya, the Rupi Bhabha Wildlife Sanctuary (503 sq km) in Sutlej watershed and the Kanawar Wildlife Sanctuary (61 sq km), adding additional protection and conservation value and opening up extended wildlife corridors.
ABOUT THE PARK
The climate is typically the Western Himalayan temperate and alpine type. There are four distinct seasons recognized for GHNP: spring (April-June), rainy/summer (July-September), autumn (October-November) and winter (December-March). Precipitation is moderate over most of the year and abundant during monsoon from mid-June to mid-September. During winter, the precipitation is in the form of snow even in lower elevation (1,560 m) and higher elevation areas experience heavy snowfall of over 2 m depth.
Mean annual rainfall recorded at Niharni and Sainj in Sainj valley for the years 1992-1994 was 1155.7 mm and 1158.3 mm respectively. The maximum annual rainfall recorded recently was 1298 mm, which is not significantly different from the previous records. The ambient temperature varied from -10 to 40 C, January and June being the coldest and hottest months of the year respectively.
The Great Himalayan National Park offers the causal hiker and serious trekker a wide range of experiences in the natural wonders of the Park. Trails range from relatively easy day walks in the Ecozone to challenging week or longer treks through arduous and spectacular terrain. GHNP ranks as one of the best national parks in the world and reveals its beauty, diversity, and depth through time spent in exploration.
At GHNP, there are numerous habitats for exploration: from lush forests of oak, conifer, and bamboo, to gentle alpine meadows; from swift flowing rivers to high elevation glaciers. The terrain and geology are diverse. If one is lucky there are opportunities to observe endangered species of the Western Himalayas in their natural habitat.
The Ecozone is an area adjacent to the Park, which contains villages that have historically had some economic dependence on the resources of the land incorporated into the Park. The formal designation of the Park boundaries and the resulting loss of these resources has economically impacted these villages. In recognition of this adverse economic impact, various programs have, and are being, developed by the state government of Himachal Pradesh, NGO’s (non-government organizations), and the villagers themselves to create alternative sources of economic well-being.
The Ecozone offers and Kullu region offers excellent opportunities for bird watching, wildlife viewing, religious pilgrimages, cultural tours, and viewing local crafts and craft creation. There are options of rafting, climbing, fishing, attending a village festival, viewing local architecture, and sacred groves. The Park itself has two facilities for tourists: a tourist center at Sai Ropa and an Information Center at Larjee.
BIODIVERSITY / ANIMAL
Among the large mammals, there are several species of herbivores that are characteristic of the Park: the Himalayan Goral, a small goat-antelope found in the lower forests, the Himalayan Tahr a wild goat, and the Bharal, or Blue Sheep above the tree-line. These mammals are prey for Common Leopards (in the forest zone) and Snow Leopards (above tree-line). Himalayan Black Bears inhabit the forests, while Asiatic Brown Bears are found in the alpine meadows.
Males are handsome with slate blue fur and black chests; weight about 60kgs, unlike smaller females. Prefers grassy slopes near cliffs from 3500m upwards to the limits of vegetation. Live in herds of about 5 to 20.
Usually herbivorous feeding on grass and herbs. Some become carnivorous killing sheep, gloats or ponies. Males may grow to 1.7m in length; females are smaller.
Himalayan Brown Bear
One of the most beautiful of the large cats with handsomely marked coat. Inhabits the highest inner portions of the Park contiguous with the Pin Valley National Park. Regular sightings of snow leopard are reported. First confirmed sighting in GHNP in Tirath, the headwater of Tirthan river, in July 1997
A wild goat which lives in the steepest precipices. May go up to 5000m altitude. Males have a distinctive, dark, shaggy ruff and a long mantle of paler hairs: they weigh up to 100 kg; females about 60 kg. Live in groups as large as 20 to 30
Member of deer family though different appearance. Does not have any antlers. Males have backward-curving tusk-like incisors in the upper jaw. Unlike other deer, they have a gall bladder and a uniquely developed scent gland in the abdominal region which produces valuable musk. In some parts of GHNP they reach a relatively high density of 6 to 9 Musk Deer per sq. km. Rated high on the endangered species list. Hunted nearly to extinction for its musk.
A goat-antelope which is heavily built and of about 1m height. One of the least studied mountain animals. Solitary life in moist gorges with thick vegetation; moves with amazing speed.
Common monkey of northern India. The Himalayan populations are larger, with longer fur than those in the plains. Large troops live near villages and forests. Mingles with humans, creating mischief. Has heavier winter coat in winters.
Also known as Muntjac or Ribfaced Deer. Adult male 50 to 75 cms high to shoulders. Antlers small with short brow-tine. Females have bristly hair in place of horns. In GHNP seen in thickly wooded hills from 1,500 to 2,500m altitude.
A goat-antelope with yellowish gray or brown coat suffused with black. One of the best known Himalayan animals. Very well represented in GHNP. Lives in small groups. Best seen on grassy ridges at dawn and dusk. Throat has distinct white patch. Height at shoulder is 65 to 70 cms. Horns about 13 cms. Goral prefer elevations of 1000 to 3000m.
Himalayan Black Bear
Associated with mixed broad leaf and conifer forests. Adult males weigh up to 180 kgs before hibernation; head-body length of 1.6m. A creamy white V pattern marks the chest. Well adapted for tree climbing. Can become carnivorous. Villagers close to GHNP dislike this animal as it destroys their maize crop and sometimes kills cattle.
A sleek and agile cat with a tawny, reddish yellow coat marked with small close set black rosettes. Average length is about 215 cms. Lives in forests as well as in open country. Sighted up to 3,500m.
BIODIVERSITY / PLANTS
Trees largely predominate the temperate belt of GHNP. The conifer species are widely distributed at various altitudes (e.g., blue pine, cedar, spruce, and fir) in the successive low to high altitudinal zones. Each of the upper coniferous belt has its characteristic oak which provide acorns for birds and rodents. The white-oak is associated with Pinus roxburghii and blue pine; green-oak with fir and spruce. Brown-oak mainly forms the pure community at the treeline.
Deep Dark Brown Oak Forest in Sainj Valley, 3,400 m
Fir Forest in Sainj Valley
Khorli Poi Birch Forest Tirthan (3,300m)
A number of lichens and fungi occur on the oak trees which in turn provide food material for mammals and birds. Himalayan yew is most abundant in the fir forest where they give an appearance of an old forest and provide a distinct cool microclimate. Rhododendron arboreum dominates between 1500-3000 m with a tendency of preference for the lower elevation on the north side. Four species of Maple occur with a wide range of altitude from 1500-3500 m. Aesculus, alder, poplar, birch, and willows are common near the streams.
Blue Pine forest