Upper Pindar Catchment in East Almora Forest Division

Site description (2004 baseline):

Site location and context
The Upper Pindar Valley lies in Bageshwar district of the Kumaon region in Uttaranchal. The Pindar Valley and two of its upper level tributaries, namely Sunderdhunga Gad and Kaphni Gad, constitute a variety of diverse temperate to alpine vegetation communities. The Reserved Forests of Dhakuri block and Sunderdhunga block (3,087 ha) constitute the forested part of this c. 20,000 ha unit IBA. The remaining alpine and snow covered areas have the status of civil forests. The area lies in the Kapkote range of East Almora Forest division. The forests of Khati Van Panchayat (village council), which are contiguous with the aforementioned forest, provide ecological continuity and form important buffers. The Pindari area is top ranking in the timber line zone of Uttaranchal hills, on the basis of botanical richness, uniqueness and endemism (Dhar et al. 1999). A high degree of diversity has been recorded in the composition of forest communities. A number of species are considered sensitive species, due to their small population and narrow distribution range, or on account of the threats to them (Samant et. al 1993). The Pindari is the only nonprotected area which was placed “on priority amongst the areas included in the conservation proposals for Uttaranchal (Rodgers et. at 2000). The area is contiguous with the Nanda Devi National Park (an IBA), the dividing line being a very high, permanently snowbound ridge. Much of the area (northwards of Khati village) is included in the buffer area of Nanda Devi Biosphere Reserve, although the Reserve management has no presence here.

Key biodiversity

AVIFAUNA: The area has large and viable populations of five pheasants: Himalayan Monal Lophophorus impejanus, Satyr Tragopan Tragopan satyra, Koklass Pheasant Pucrasia macrolopha, Cheer Pheasant Catreus wallichii and Kaleej Pheasant Lophura leucomelanos (R. Raza pers. comm. 2003). The Himalayan Snowcock Tetraogallus himalayensis is also found here (Rodgers and Panwar 1988). In the Endemic Bird Area of Western Himalayas, very few IBAs have five species of pheasant. Detailed inventory of birds is not available, however, Sultana and Khan (2000) have recorded a total of 185 bird species from Almora district, which include 151 resident, 26 resident/migratory, and 8 migratory species. In detailed surveys of two Oak forests in this IBA, they recorded 120 bird species, of which 28 were birds of Sino-Himalayan Temperate Forest (Biome-7), 9 belonged to Sino- Himalayan Subtropical Forest (Biome-8) and 4 to Eurasian High Montane (Biome-5) (Sultana and Khan 2000, R. Raza pers. comm. 2003). This site comes under the Western Himalayas Endemic Bird Area (EBA) (Stattersfield et al. 1998) where 11 bird species have been listed as restricted range (BirdLife International, undated). Cheer Pheasant was recorded by Sultana and Khan (2000). Considering the altitudinal range and vegetation types of this IBA, there are probably more restricted range species present. BirdLife International (undated) has identified 112 species of Sino-Himalayan Temperate Forest (Biome-7), of which 28 are found here. Many of these species are breeding residents and probably found in significant numbers, as the forest habitat is largely intact. The Kumaon Himalayas, of which Upper Pindar Catchment is a part, have been explored relatively poorly as far as bird communities are concerned. Nevertheless, there are about 55 published accounts of birds from this region. Sultana and Khan (2000) compared their data of Ranikhet area (adjoining Almora district) with that of Briggs (1931) and found many changes. Out of 83 birds recorded in 1931 and 114 birds in 1995, there were 68 common species, 15 species are exclusive to 1931 and 46 species were recorded only in 1995. This shows the extent of change taking place, mainly due to biotic pressures and probably also climate change. More work is required in the Kumaon Himalaya, especially in Nainital and Almora districts, for a comprehensive comparison of status of several bird species (Sultana and Khan 2000). The existing information shows that this region is extremely important for many Western Himalayan endemics.

OTHER KEY FAUNA: The area is said to have the largest herds of Himalayan Tahr Hemitragus jemlahicus in India, as well as Bharal Pseudois nayaur, Musk Deer Moschus chrysogarter, Serow Nemorhaedus sumatraensis and Goral N. goral. Snow Leopards Uncia uncia are probably present (Rodgers and Panwar 1988).

Pressure/threats to key biodiversity
MAIN THREATS: Poaching of Musk Deer for the musk pod; Garbage left by trekkers; Tourism.

The Pindari area should be declared as a Wildlife Sanctuary, both on account of its rich biodiversity and the low biotic pressure in the area. The uppermost village in the Valley is Khati (c. 2200 m), situated at the confluence of Pindar and Sunderdhunga Gad. The trek to Pindari glacier is one of the most popular in Uttaranchal state. The Forest Department and the Kumaon Mandal Vikas Nigam should work together to manage trekking so that it is ecologically sensitive. The area has great potential to become a centre for conservation education in the Himalayas. The Upper Pindar Valley has a relatively difficult approach, as the only way to reach it is by trekking, involving a tough climb to Dhakuri Pass (c. 3000 m). This difficult climb discourages the forest staff from visiting this area regularly. Moreover, most of the area has broadleaf forests that are not very important commercially. Therefore, forestry was never practiced in the upper reaches of the Valley. This perhaps explains the absence of forest rest houses in the Valley, which is not so in the rest of Kumaon. The nearby reserved forests of the Namik forest block, 4413.5 ha in extent, which are situated in the upper catchment area of the snow-fed Ramganga river and the associated alpine areas are similar to the Pindari area in biodiversity value. All these could be considered for inclusion in the proposed Pindari Wildlife Sanctuary if the two are properly connected.

Key contributors: Dhananjai Mohan, Rashid Raza, Jamal A. Khan, Aisha Sultana and Shah Hussain.

Recommended citation
BirdLife International (2024) Important Bird Area factsheet: Upper Pindar Catchment in East Almora Forest Division. Downloaded from on 29/02/2024.