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Site description (2004 baseline)
Dachigam National Park, about 20 km from Srinagar, was established in 1910 as a hunting reserve by the Maharaja of Kashmir. After the merger of Jammu and Kashmir with independent India in 1948, the management of the Park was handed over to the Fisheries Department and subsequently to the Forest Department. The Park is a rectangular forest, 141 sq. km in extent, 22.5 km long and 8 km wide. It is divided into Lower Dachigam in the west and Upper Dachigam in the east. The Park is the catchment area of the Dal lake, which supplies water to Srinagar. The Dagwan river originates in the higher reaches of the Park, and flows through rocky and forested slopes before draining into the Dal Lake. The importance of Dachigam as a catchment area of the Dal lake was recognized by the erstwhile Maharaja nearly a century ago, who moved ten villages to protect the forest cover, hence its name Dachigam (dachi = ten, gam= villages). The Himalayan mountain ranges including Dachigam National Park are a part of the great Zanskar Range which forms the northwest division of the central Himalayan mountain. This range bifurcates near Kulu in Himachal Pradesh and ends at the high peaks of Nun and Kun (Naqash 2001-2002). The fold of this mountain range has undulating narrow gullies, and broader outer gullies locally known as ‘Nar’. There are two steep ridges, one rising from near Harwan Reservoir and the other to the east of New Thir, which form the natural boundaries of the National Park. These mountains have a variety of vegetation types supported by different microclimatic conditions prevailing due to the changing aspects of the undulating terrain. The Dagwan river originates from Marsar Lake and is fed throughout its course by a complex of mountain streams draining through numerous gullies (Kurt 1978) till it drains into Harwan Reservoir. The largest extant population, about 300 individuals, of the highly endangered Kashmir Stag or Hangul Cervus elaphus hanglu is found in Dachigam. Owing to protection for the last 90 years, the vegetation of Dachigam NP presents a strong contrast with that outside. Despite the fact that there is some pressure of graziers in the Park, the vegetation is more or less intact. The mountain slopes of Dagwan valley and the catchment areas of various nullahs sustain the almost pristine vegetation. Six major types of vegetation have been recognized: (i) Alpine pastures and alpinescrub above 3,300 m consisting of Junipersand Betula utilis; (ii) Rock faces supporting grasses and Pinus griffithii; (iii) Coniferous forests of Pinus griffithii, Cedrus deodara, Abies pindrow and Picea smithiana; (iv) Broadleaf woodlands of Acer sp., Aesculus coryplus and Parrotia between 2,000 and 2,800 m; (v) Grassland patches beween broadleaf and coniferous forests; and (vi) Riverine forests mainly with species of Aesculus, Juglans, Celtis, Populus, Salix, Robinia, Morus, Quercus and Rhus.
AVIFAUNA: Dachigam NP is very rich in high altitude birds. Before insurgency started in 1989, it was very popular with birdwatchers and researchers. A total of 145 species have been recorded (Katti 1989), while Hussain (1989) has recorded 107 species during the BNHS Bird Migration Project. Many of the birds were ringed, so the identity has been confirmed. This site is perhaps very important for the globally Vulnerable Kashmir Flycatcher Ficedula subrubra. This migratory flycatcher has a small, declining population and breeding range, which is also severely fragmented, as a result of the destruction of Temperate, Mixed Deciduous Forests (BirdLife International 2001). It has been recently found wintering in moderate numbers in Mukurthi NP (IBA) in Tamil Nadu (Zarri and Rahmani in press). Dachigam lies in the Western Himalayas Endemic Bird Area (EBA 128) where Stattersfield et al. (1998) have listed 11 Restricted Range species. Three have been found here till now but more are likely to be present. Dachigam represents two biomes: Biome-5 Eurasian High Montane (Alpine and Tibetan) above c. 3,600 m, and Biome-7 Sino- Himalayan Temperate Forest, between c. 1,800 m and 3,600 m. BirdLife International (undated) has prepared a list of biome species. Out of the 48 Biome-5 species, seven are found here. Similarly, 13 species of Biome-7 are found here, out of 112. Ahmad (1999) has seen purely migratory species such as Northern Pintail Anas acuta and Mallard A. platyrhynchos on June, 20 1998, at the Harwan Reservoir inside the Park. While there are many records of breeding of Mallard in Kashmir (Bates and Lowther 1952) the sighting of Northern Pintail in summer, so far away from its known breeding range is interesting. Of the pheasants, Himalayan or Impeyan Monal Lophophurus impejanus and Koklass Pucrasia macrolopha are present. The Himalayan Snowcock Tetraogallus himalayensis is also reported (Rodgers and Panwar 1988). Among the breeding species are the Kashmir Flycatcher Ficedula subrubra,Orange Bullfinch Pyrrhula aurantiaca and Tytler’s Leaf-Warbler Phylloscopus tytleri. The Oriental White-backed Vulture Gyps bengalensis is recorded from this IBA, and Eastern Imperial Eagle Aquila heliaca also can be seen during the migratory season. Himalayan Golden Eagle Aquila chrysaetos and Lammergeier Gypaetus barbatus are easily seen here.
OTHER KEY FAUNA: The most important mammal of Dachigam National Park is the Hangul or the Kashmir Stag Cervus elaphus hanglu. Owing to insurgency from 1989 onwards, its population has crashed, both due to poaching by para-miliary personnel and due to habitat deterioration. Along with the Hangul, there are 15 other known species of mammals (Department of Wildlife Protection 1985).
The Himalayan Black Bear Ursus thibetanus (Kurt 1979) is widely distributed but the Brown Bear Ursus arctos, is uncommon and found only in Upper Dachigam (Kurt 1979; Gruisen 1983).
Himalayan Musk Deer Moschus chrysogaster is an uncommon ungulate of the higher reaches of Dachigam. There is no recent record of Snow Leopard Uncia uncia, although Holloway (1970) reports seeing one. However, the LeopardPanthera pardus, the major natural preda tor of Hangul and other animals, is quite common. Himalayan Yellow-throated Marten Martes flavigula, Beech Marten Martes foina, Himalayan Weasel Mustela sibirica, Jungle Cat Felis chaus, Golden Jackal Canis aureus and Red Fox Vulpes vulpes are some of the smaller predators. The Long-tailed Marmot Marmota caudata and Himalayan Mouse Hare Ochotona roylei forms their main prey, along with birds. Wild Boar Sus scrofa is quite abundant, as killing it is taboo for the local people.
Of the seven species of Langurs recently described by Groves (2001), Nepal Langur Semnopithecus schistaceus is found in Dachigam. They move around in large troops, often of 60 or more (Gruisen 1983).
Key contributors: Rashid Y. Naquash, M. S. Bacha, Shafiq Ahmed Khan and Khursheed Ahmed.
BirdLife International (2024) Important Bird Area factsheet: Dachigam National Park. Downloaded from https://datazone.birdlife.org/site/factsheet/dachigam-national-park-iba-india on 28/02/2024.