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The Annapurna Conservation Area (ACA) was set up in 1986 by the King Mahendra Trust for Nature Conservation, (KMTNC), a national NGO. It is now the largest protected area in Nepal. The Area lies in central west Nepal around the Annapurna massifs. It includes one of the most impressive mountain cirques in the world, popularly known as the Annapurna Sanctuary which is surrounded by seven peaks over 7000 m. Annapurna I (8091 m), one of the world’s highest mountains, lies within the ACA and Dhaulagiri (8167 m) lies to the west of the area. At the lowest levels of the Conservation Area (about 1000m) there are subtropical forests of broadleaved Schima wallichii, Castanopsis indica, and on dry slopes forests of Chir Pine Pinus roxburghii; alder Alnus nepalensis mainly occurs along rivers and streams. Higher up, these forests are replaced by temperate forests of mixed broadleaves, including the oaks Quercus lamellosa, Q. lanata and Q. semecarpifolia with rhododendron species. In the wettest places, such as in the upper Modi Khola valley, grow bamboo jungles of Arundinaria species. Above these grow coniferous forests, mainly of fir Abies spectabilis, Blue Pine Pinus wallichiana and hemlock Tsuga dumosa. Higher up there are subalpine forests of birch Betula utilis, blue pine and juniper species. Finally rhododendron and juniper scrub grow in the alpine zone. The area to the north of the Himalayas is semi-desert and small, scattered bushes of Caragana species and juniper replace the forests. Biogeographically, the Himalayas can be divided into eastern and western sections. The dividing line between the east and west is the Kali Gandaki Valley that runs north/south through the Conservation Area. Since the late 1970s Pipar has been the site of a partnership between the World Pheasant Association and the villagers of Karuwa, who live closest to Pipar, because of the importance of the area for pheasants. A conservation plan for Pipar has recently been prepared jointly by the World Pheasant Association with the ACAP and Bird Conservation Nepal (McGowan 2004).
A total of 486 bird species has been recorded in the Annapurna Conservation Area, over half the species recorded in Nepal (Inskipp and Inskipp 2003, Acharya 2004). Species typical of both the eastern and western Himalayas occur, as the Area is situated across the biogeographic divide in the mountain chain. Eight globally threatened species have been recorded, including Cheer Pheasant, for which the Area may be particularly important. Seven near-threatened species occur, notably Satyr Tragopan and Yellow-rumped Honeyguide, which are both resident. The Area has good populations of six restricted-range species from the Western and Central Himalayas Endemic Bird Areas, including the Spiny Babbler, Nepal Wren Babbler and Hoary-throated Barwing that are resident. It is the only known wintering area in Nepal for the restricted-range Spectacled Finch; this species may also breed. The ACA is the country’s only protected area that has all of Nepal’s six Himalayan pheasant species. Pipar and the nearby area of Santel are of national importance for pheasants, supporting five species including a good population of the near-threatened Satyr Tragopan, and are also notably rich in other forest bird species (Baral et al. 2001). Large areas of temperate forests and associated bamboo jungles occur within the ACA and are known to support important populations of characteristic species of the Sino-Himalayan Temperate Forest biome. There are also huge alpine and trans-Himalayan semi-desert areas that support significant populations of Eurasian High Montane biome species. The Kali Gandaki valley is a migration corridor for birds moving south to winter in India. About 40 migrating bird species have been recorded, including Demoiselle Crane Grus virgo. In addition, larger numbers of birds of prey, totalling over 8,000 individuals of about 20 species in one season, have been seen including Greater Spotted Eagle Aquila clanga (de Roder 1989). There are two locations at the edge of the Annapurna Conservation Area which are the only sites identified as internationally important raptor migration sites and representative of the Himalayan region (Zalles and Bildstein 2000). The first site is Khare (NP-01) which lies just south of the southern edge of the ACA and the second site is Upper Kali Gandaki (NP-02) which lies on the eastern bank within the ACA.
Non-bird biodiversity: A total of 101 mammal species has been recorded in the Conservation Area so far.. A large number of globally threatened mammals occur including Asiatic Wild Dog Cuon alpinus, Grey Wolf Canis lupus, Red Panda Ailurus fulgens, Asiatic Black Bear Ursus thibetanus, Common Otter Lutra lutra, Smooth-coated Otter Lutrogale perspicillata, Clouded Leopard Neofelis nebulosa, Snow Leopard Uncia uncia, Himalayan Musk Deer Moschus chrysogaster, Wild Yak Bos grunniens, Himalayan Tahr Hemitragus jemlahicus, Serow Capricornis sumatraensis, Argali Ovis ammon and Chiru (or Tibetan Antelope) Pantholops hodgsonii (Hilton-Taylor 2000, Inskipp and Inskipp 2003). A total of 36 reptile species, including 11 lizards and 25 snakes, has been found, some as far north as the upper Mustang valley. Twenty amphibians have been recorded, all frogs and toads, and these are more or less restricted to the southern slopes.
BirdLife International (2021) Important Bird Areas factsheet: Annapurna Conservation Area. Downloaded from http://www.birdlife.org on 05/03/2021.