Hanle Plains (Hanle River marshes)

Year of compilation: 2004

Site description
These marshes are located west and north of Hanle village in Ladakh, near the border with China. They are partly state owned and partly under the Hanle Buddhist monastery. The habitat is a complex of fast flowing streams, stagnant pools, saline marshes, seasonally flooded marshes, and bogs along the Hanle river, 45 km south of its confluence with the Indus river. The wetlands are frozen from November to April and are fed by snowmelt in summer. The freshwater pools shelter species such as Hydrilla, Myriophyllum, Potamogeton, and an edible aquatic lichen

Key biodiversity

AVIFAUNA: The area is an important breeding ground for various waterfowl including the Black-necked crane Grus nigricollis. There is a recent report of three breeding pairs of Black-necked crane in the Hanle marshes and one in Lal Pahri (Rauf Zargar pers. comm. 2003). This site is also an important breeding area for the Ruddy Shelduck Tadorna ferruginea and the Lesser Sand Plover Charadrius mongolus. During autumn migration many birds pass through this site, including the globally threatened Greater Spotted Eagle Aquila clanga. It uses the plain as the last staging site before crossing the Himalayan range (Pfister 2001).

OTHER KEY FAUNA: The slopes above Hanle plain are an important habitat of Tibetan Wild Ass or Kiang Equus kiang. In 1995-96 the first Tibetan Gazelle Procapra picticaudata was seen here after 35 years of regional extinction. The Tibetan Wolf Canis lupus chanco and Red Fox Vulpes vulpes are also found. Besides, Weasel Mustela sp. Blue Sheep or Bharal Pseudois nayaur, Argali Ovis ammon, Marmot Marmota sp and Woolly hare Lepus oiostolus are commonly found.

Pressure/threats to key biodiversity
MAIN THREATS: Disturbance to birds; Grazing; Urbanization; Plantation.

The area is used for grazing domestic livestock and for water supply to Hanle village. The human population in the Valley is increasing, and correspondingly the livestock population, intensifying the grazing on the valley and use of water for high-altitude agriculture. Packs of semi-feral dogs roam the region, taking a heavy toll of small mammals, and nestlings, including unfledged Black-necked Cranes. The dog numbers should be controlled, if the Black-necked Crane has to be saved. Various parts of the marshes have been fenced for large-scale plantations of Willow, under the supervision of the Plantation Department (not the Forest Department). With the increasing influx of Tibetan refugees, their camps are growing bigger and bigger. Regular practice firing by the army and Indo-Tibetan Border Police disturb the tranquility of the site (K. Srivastave pers. comm. 2000).

Key contributors: Otto Pfister and Rauf Zargar.

Recommended citation
BirdLife International (2021) Important Bird Areas factsheet: Hanle Plains (Hanle River marshes). Downloaded from on 20/10/2021.