It is thrilling for nature lovers to hear that out of 55, 670 sq km that makes up Himachal Pradesh, nearly 37, 691 sq km is covered by forests. What is more exciting is that most of it is protected area, keeping the wildlife safe from the developer’s greedy gaze. There are about 2 national parks, 3 game reserves and 32 wildlife sanctuaries in Himachal Pradesh. It is an example that other states could follow perhaps, realizing the role that conservation of wildlife and wilderness areas play in our own survival, by recharging the water table and keeping the ecological balance as a priority.

So get your binoculars and cameras handy, as we lead you on to explore the vast green glades of Himachal and the fauna that lives there. Himachal Pradesh is a place having wildlife in abundance which adds to the overall richness of Himachal. There are a number of adventurous and beautiful wildlife sanctuaries and parks in Himachal Pradesh.

How Green Is My Valley

The State of Himachal is one of the few remaining states where nature can be enjoyed in its pristine beauty what with it’s truly mind boggling mix of enchanting landscape, bewitching and breathtaking views. The state is home to 3295 species of flora and 5721 species of fauna. Owing to the medicinal and therapeutic value of the plants found in the state, there is threat of overexploitation as there is great commercial value of the plants. The State Government through its Forest Department has embarked upon a project for conservation of the state’s precious flora and fauna. The parks can be visited by you; you can personally witness and savour of the tourist delights of Himachal.

When you visit any of the Wildlife sanctuaries or protected forests you can look forward to viewing the flora fauna and animals, birds etc. particular to that region. You may also like to keep in mind the fact that the forest cover is found from altitudes of 900 metres to 6000 metres, it is also noteworthy that at lower altitudes the landscape is rising gently and at lower altitudes you are likely to find mountain streams as well as flower filled valleys with a bewildering variety of flora and fauna whereas at higher altitudes the vegetation is sparse and the land gradient is steep.

 Vegetation in the Himachal varies from sub tropical to Alpine mainly depending upon altitude. In the Trans Himalayan region you can visit Pin Valley which includes areas situated above the tree line. The animal species found in this region are basically those who have adapted to the extreme cold climate in the area.

In the lower elevations, spotting the endangered musk deer, Himalayan Thar and cheer pheasant, well adapted to the temperate climate, will bring a smile to any wildlife lover’s lips. Himachal Pradesh’s numerous glacial lakes, rivers and artificially made reservoirs are home to winged visitors from Central Asia and visiting these areas, in summer and autumn is an ornithologist’s dream come true. One can visit sanctuaries in Khajjiar Lake, Maharana Pratap Sagar Reservoir and Renuka Lake to take pleasure in bird watching.

The enthusiastic bird lover will find Himachal to be bird paradise since it is dotted with numerous rivers, glacial lakes and manmade water reservoirs that hosts various migratory birds during the summer and autumn seasons

Himachal Pradesh’s unique topography, favorable climate and considerable forest cover is the reason behind the abundance of flora and fauna here. The trees found here range from the alpine cedar, pine, oak, fir, alder, birch, spruce, while ferns, grasses, wild flowers and flowering rhododendron add a splash of color to the lush green valley. When on a visit to Himachal’s forest areas, look out for partridges, pheasants, ibex, antelopes, patient kites, bears, deer, the rare thar and bharal and the snow leopard.

Abundance Of Flora And Fauna

It is Himachal Pradesh’s pride that 63.9 percent of the state’s area is under dense forest cover. The flora is a mixture of the Moist Forest of Deodar, Ban Forest of Oak, Moist Temperate Forest of Deciduous, Western Mixed Forest of Coniferous, Rhododendron Forest of Scrubs, and Himalayan Pastures of Alpine. Blue Pines are found in the lower end of ranges, while the higher elevation of ranges has firs. The flora includes cedar, pine, bamboo, deodar, oak, spur etc. Himachal Pradesh is a state where 359 types of animals and around 1200 types of birds can be found. The main species of animals in the state are musk Deer, Snow Leopard, Ibex, Blue Sheep, Leopard, Wolf, Common Langur, Rhesus macaque, Goral, Himalayan Black Bear, Serow and Muntjac. The authorities and various governments of Himachal Pradesh have established several sanctuaries and two National parks in protection of the Flora and Fauna. The major left over population of a species called Himalayan Tahr can be found in one of the parks in Himachal Pradesh.

Famous Wildlife Parks of Himachal Pradesh

Great Himalayan National Park

Himalayan National Park is a forest conservation initiative which is located in the Seraj Tehsil of district Kullu, Himachal Pradesh .It is build at an altitude ranging 1300 to 6100 Mtr.
Great Himalayan National Park was established consequent to a survey carried under the name of Himalayan Wildlife Project in the year 1980. In 1984, a notification for creation of the park (situated around 50Kms.from Kullu town in Seraj Tehsil). Since at the material time a number of villages were situated in the area identified for the park, shifting of populace from inside the notified area to other places took some time and consequently final notification took place in the year 1999. It is now officially known as Jawaharlal Lal Nehru Park. The park covers an area of 754 Sq.Kms. and its eastern border touches lofty Himalayan peaks, whereas its northern and southern borders touch snow covered areas .There are three other wildlife destinations in close proximity viz. Pin Valley National Park, Rupi Bhabha Wildlife Sanctuary, Kanawar National Park. The park also includes the upper catchment areas of Tirthan, Sanj, Parvati, and Jiva Nallas, these rivers flow from east to west and form tributaries of the river Beas.  A significant portion of the park (specially the eastern part) remains covered with snow throughout the year.

There are four entry points to the park viz...Guishaini, Barshaini, Siund, Neuli.  The government has made it mandatory to obtain passes to visit the park. However the passes can be obtained quite easily from the Park Director at Shamsi or from other range officers who are part of the park establishment. It is compulsory to take a government guide when visiting the park, the park timings are between sunrise and sunset.

Simbalbara Sanctuary

Walking trails in the adjoining forest area, especially in the winter months, are the best way to view the beauty of the sal forests of this sanctuary, located in the Paonta Valley of Sirmour district. The Simbalbara sanctuary is home to several deer species: Goral, Sambhar and Chital. The gurgle of the many streams that flow through this picturesque park adds to the pleasurable experience of observing the rolling glades and towering trees.

Renuka Sanctuary

Located near Nahan in the Sirmour district of Himachal Pradesh, the Renuka Wildlife sanctuary is spread over an area of 400 hectares. The animal and bird attraction of the park include apart from the endemic species like Spotted Deer, Black Pheasant, Peacocks, Himalayan Black Bears, Barking Deer, Red Jungle Fowl, large Grey Indian Antelope and Lion tailed Macaques, an enclosure of Asiatic Lions, who may be viewed at close range from an armored van . It is just not the charismatic large mammal species but the myriad butterflies that add more color and life in the sanctuary. What adds to your attraction is the temple and the holy Renuka Lake

Chail Wildlife Sanctuary

The area surrounding this park is teeming with wildlife, both big and small and it would be unlucky indeed if you missed seeing a single wild animal on a trek between either Chail to Gaura or Chail to Jhaja. Located in the district of Shimla the park, notified in the year 1976, covers an area of 10,854.36 hectares. The park is home to several species of mammals, birds, reptiles and insects. One is likely to spot in the Silver and White Oak forests Sambar, Himalayan Black Bear, Kashmiri Flying Squirrel, Indian Porcupine, Barking Deer, Leopard, Rhesus Macaque, Red Deer, Goral, Yellow Throated Marten, Hare Common Langur and the rare Chir Pheasants if you visit Blossom and Jhajja. Additional attraction of the park includes Barking Deer and Kalijin.

 Enjoy The Animal Attractions at The Nature Parks of Himachal Pradesh

Apart from various the Wildlife Sanctuaries and National Parks, one can see other Nature Parks in Himachal Pradesh as well.

Nature Park of Kufri

Since the Nature Park at Kufri is built very near to Shimla, therefore it is a frequent travel destination for travellers. The park has, in the past, conducted captive breeding projects to raise the population of the endangered species houses here. These include Barking Deer, Hangul, Brown Bear, Musk Deer and the rare Monal Pheasant.

Nature Park at Manali

Raising concern about the environment and conservation is the prime objective of this park located in the Kullu district of the state.

Nature Park at Gopalpur

Gopalpur Nature Park is a frequent tourist destination. Hence, tremendous attempts have been made by the forest authorities to promote tourism in this nature park. Various breeds of animals are held in reserve in closed space here.

Threats and Conservation Issues

In Himachal Pradesh, deforestation is not an acute problem when compared to other states though the effects of overgrazing on the understory presents a problem here (IUCN 1993). The forest cover remains extensive and relatively stable, some development projects such as roads and dams also affect some of the IBA sites (Virendra Sharma pers. comm. 1999). There are few IBAs where a viable population of the Cheer Pheasants and Western Tragopan are found. Because of environment changes, however, they remain only in small pockets as described by BirdLife International (2001). The Great Himalayan National Park is also an important IBA site where a sizeable population of the Cheer Pheasant and the Western Tragopan is found. Similarly, the Majathal Wildlife Sanctuary has a sizable population of Cheer Pheasant.

\Some of the key threats are illegal logging, expansion of cultivation, overgrazing by domestic animals, conversion to farming and cultivation, weaknesses in sheltered management area, hunting of wild animals and trapping. New roads, dams, mines, buildings and other developments strongly contribute to habitat loss in the Western Himalayas, damaging forests, both directly and indirectly and by displacing people into forest areas (BirdLife International 2003). Construction of roads in highland areas may cause landslides but it provides improved access to remote distant places for shifting cultivators, hunters, harvesters and illegal loggers of forest products.

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