Overa-Aru Wildlife Sanctuary

Country/territory: India

IBA Criteria met: A1, A2, A3 (2004)
For more information about IBA criteria please click here

Area: 51,100 ha

Bombay Natural History Society
Most recent IBA monitoring assessment
Year of assessment Threat score (pressure) Condition score (state) Action score (response)
2003 high not assessed not assessed
For more information about IBA monitoring please click here

Site description
Overa-Aru Wildlife Sanctuary is one of the most important protected areas of Jammu and Kashmir. It lies within the distributional range of the highly endangered Hangul Cervus elaphus hanglu, at present found only in Dachigam National Park. It is linked with Dachigam through the Lidder Forest. Overa-Aru Wildlife Sanctuary is named after two villages of the same name. Overa gets its name from Overa Nullah or stream that flows through it, while Aru is a favourite destination for trekkers (Suhail 2000). Like the other sanctuaries of Jammu and Kashmir, Overa-Aru is an old sanctuary, declared under Dogra rule in 1945. At that time, it covered only 32 sq. km, and was later enlarged to 392 sq km in 1981 when the Aru forest was included. The same order also designated the area as a Biosphere Reserve of 424 sq. km under the Man and Biosphere Programme, but neither the Government of India nor UNESCO would accept the designation. Finally the State Government declared the whole area as a Wildlife Sanctuary (Suhail 2000). The Overa-Aru WLS is rich in a number of lakes (locally called sars) and glaciers which feed numerous streams and nullahs that flow through the villages situated near the periphery of the Sanctuary. With a pre-Independence tradition of conservation awareness, the state Government of Jammu and Kashmir keenly protects Overa-Aru as a source of water for drinking and irrigation. The following vegetation types can be distinguished in Overa. Riverine or deciduous forest below 2,300 m, with Aesculus indica and Juglans regia dominant, with other riparian associates, such as Fraxinus, Morus alba, Robinia, Ulmus, Padus cornuta, Rhus succedanea and Pyrus lanata. Coniferous Forest from 2,300 m to 3,000 m, dominated by Silver Fir Abies pindrow on moist aspects and Blue Pine Pinus griffithii on dry aspects. Other associates are Betula utilis, Picea smithiana, Ulmus walliciana. Alpine or Birch forest from 3,000 m to 3,500 m, dominated by Betula utilis, and associated with Rhododendron companulatum and Juniperus spp. The ground cover comprises of herbs such as Rumex patientia, Primula, Pedicularis, Anemone and Corydalis. The alpine scrub and rocky faces from 3,500 m to 3,800 m, bear Juniperus recurva and Rhododendron anthropogon and herb species Stachys sericea, Sieversia elata and Veronica melissaefolia (Suhail 2000).

Key biodiversity

AVIFAUNA: Of 117 bird species recorded in or near Overa Sanctuary, 89 breed within its boundaries. These are listed by Price and Jamdar (1990). Recently, Intesar Suhail (pers. comm. 2003) has reported 113 species of birds, including new records. Both Himalayan or Impeyan Monal Lophophorus impejanus and Koklass Pheasant Pucrasia macrolopha are present, but the Western Tragopan Tragopan melanocephalus has not been seen, despite the Sanctuary being within its range (Rodgers and Panwar 1988). Price and Jamdar (1989, 1990, 1991) have found eight species of sympatric warblers breeding in Overa. They are Tytler’s Leaf Warbler Phylloscopus tytleri, Tickell’s Leaf Warbler P. affinis, Orange-barred Leaf Warbler P. pulcher, Humes’ Yellow-browed Warbler P. inornatus, Pallas’s Leaf Warbler P. proregulus, Largebilled Leaf Warbler P. magnirostris, Greenish Leaf Warbler P. trochiloides and Large-crowned Leaf Warbler P. occipitalis. In addition, the Strong-footed Bush-warbler Cettia fortipes also breeds in Overa. Jamdar and Price (1990) found that the Simla Black Tit Parus rufonuchalis and Rufous-bellied Crested Tit P. rubidiventris also breed sympatrically in Overa. A third Biome-7 species, Crested Black Tit Parus melanolophus, also breeds commonly in the Sanctuary, and is abundant close to the tree line (Price and Jamdar 1990). This IBA is located in the Western Himalayas Endemic Bird Area (EBA 128) where Stattersfield et al. (1998) have listed 11 Restricted Range species, four of which have been found here, though more are likely to occur. Overa has two biomes: Biome-5 (Eurasian High Montane: Alpine and Tibetan) from above c. 3,600 m, and Biome-7 (Sino-Himalayan Temperate Forest) in the range of c. 1,800 m to 3,600 m. BirdLife International (undated) has prepared a list of biome species. Out of the 48 Biome-5 species, five are found here. Similarly, 15 species of Biome-7 are found, of the 112 listed by BirdLife International. The only globally threatened species in Overa-Aru is the Kashmir Flycatcher Ficedula subrubra. It has a small known breeding range in the Northwest Himalaya, therefore it is also considered as a Restricted Range species by BirdLife International (2001). It winters in Sri Lanka and the Western Ghats (Ali and Ripley 1987, Grimmett et al. 1998). Between 1985 and 1987, 17 Kashmir Flycatchers were mistnetted for ringing (Price and Jamdar 1990). Overa could be an important breeding site for this flycatcher.

OTHER KEY FAUNA: About 20 large and medium mammals are found in Overa (Suhail 2000). Kashmir Deer or Hangul is the commoner and better known of the two races of European Red Deer, Cervus elaphus, found within Indian limits (Prater 1980). Kurt (1978) estimated about seven Hangul. Presence of Hangul was confirmed by the latest census conducted by the South Kashmir Wildlife Division of the Department of Wildlife Protection. A total of 11 Hanguls (3 males, 6 females, and 2 fawns) were seen inside the Sanctuary (Suhail 2000). Indirect evidence (droppings and hoof-marks) shows that the Hangul is fairly well distributed in this area. In winter, it moves to Hakarhaji, Poshpathri, Gumri and Kanjkoot areas, while in summer it ascends to the higher areas of Chhumani and Munwarsar (Suhail 2000). In 2003 only four Hanguls were sighted (R. Y. Naquash pers. comm.) The Musk Deer is found in the higher reaches (>2,300 m) of the Sanctuary. The exact number is not known as it is elusive and crepuscular. The Brown Bear Ursus arctos is uncommon, and confined to higher mountains such as the Kolahai. The Eurasian Black Bear Ursus thibetanus is much more common all over the Sanctuary. As it raids crops, particularly maize, it is a problem in some areas. The Snow Leopard Uncia uncia has not been reported from Overa-Aru, but the Common Leopard Panthera pardus is fairly common in and around the Sanctuary.

According to the separation of Langurs into 7 species by Groves (2001), the species found in Overa-Aru would be Semnopithecus schistaceus, named Nepal Langur by him.

Rhesus Macaque Macaca mulatta is also found in the Sanctuary and forms the major prey of the Leopard. Yellow-throated Marten Martes flavigula, Red Fox Vulpes vulpes, Jungle Cat Felis chaus and Leopard Cat Prionailurus bengalensis are some of the smaller predators.

Not much is known about reptile and fish fauna of this IBA. Suhail (2000) has listed 18 species of butterflies, including four rare ones listed in the IUCN Red Data Book.

Key contributors: Nitin Jamdar, Intesar Suhail and R. Y. Naquash..

Recommended citation
BirdLife International (2022) Important Bird Areas factsheet: Overa-Aru Wildlife Sanctuary. Downloaded from on 10/12/2022.