Parc National du Haut Atlas Oriental

Year of compilation: 2001

Site description
A proposed National Park, this site covers 55,252 ha of the High Atlas between Midelt and Er Rachidia. The base rock consists of limestone with some igneous intrusions. The site ranges in altitude from 1,645 m in the bed of the Oued Arheddou to 3,102 m at the summit of Jbel Tanrhourt. At its western end it includes the twin lakes of Isli and Tislite, near Imilchil. The northern slopes enjoy an annual precipitation of 400–600 mm, and are consequently well-wooded, while the southern slopes are drier, receiving only 200–300 mm, and are more open. Winter snows are abundant and long-lasting at the higher elevations. On the northern side, woody vegetation consists of dense cedar Cedrus atlantica and pine Pinus pinaster maghrebiana forests, oak Quercus rotundifolia woodland, open Juniperus thurifera woodland and, at lower altitudes, some pine Pinus halepensis. The mountain summits and high plateaus support xerophytic steppe vegetation, and there is some grassland in wetter areas. On the southern slopes cedar woodland is disappearing, but sparse oak and pine woodland persists. Steppe vegetation is predominant, dominated by alfa Stipa tenacissima at lower altitudes.

Key biodiversity
See Box and Table 2 for key species. Ninety-five breeding species have been reported, including two Sahara–Sindian biome species (Table 2), as well as many raptor species. However, three vultures, Gyps fulvus, Neophron percnopterus and Gypaetus barbatus, have recently disappeared, and populations of Aquila chrysaetos and Buteo rufinus have also crashed.

Non-bird biodiversity: The last confirmed Moroccan report of the carnivore Panthera pardus panthera (CR) came from the site in 1993, but it is feared locally extinct. Three other globally threatened mammals are present: an important and increasing population of Ammotragus lervia (VU), estimated at 200 animals in 1996; small numbers of Macaca sylvanus (VU); and Gazella cuvieri (EN), which is fairly regularly seen in a proposed eastern extension to the park. Two endemic reptiles, Quedenfeldtia moerens and Lacerta andreanskyi, are present, and a third, Ophisaurus koellikeri, is suspected to occur. A total of 52 species, subspecies or varieties of plant endemic to Morocco or considered nationally rare are also known from this site.

Pressure/threats to key biodiversity
The area has been proposed as a National Park, but has not yet been gazetted. The twin lakes near Imilchil have both been identified as SIBEs, Tislite as priority 1 (No. H34) and Isli as priority 2 (No. H33). A small enclosure of 10 ha has been made into a reserve near the Maison Forestière de Tirrhist and is frequented by Ammotragus lervia, which are given supplementary feed in the winter. Although only three villages are located within the park limits, at least 25 are located close to its boundaries. In 1993, it was estimated that 18,000 people traditionally used the park’s resources. Activities include extensive transhumant pastoralism of goats and sheep, irrigated agriculture, and, somewhat surprisingly, mass tourism—since the remote village of Imilchil receives thousands of visitors once a year on the occasion of a famous traditional Berber marriage festival.Threats to the site include overgrazing and deforestation for fuel and timber, which have caused widespread soil erosion and pasture degradation. Damage to the cedar woodland is extensive. The reedbeds at Tislite are rapidly disappearing due to the activities of fishermen and holidaymakers, leading to a decline in nesting waterfowl. Raptor populations have also declined sharply in the past 10 years due to strychnine poisoning campaigns targeting livestock predators. A detailed management plan for the proposed park has already been drawn up under the auspices of AEFCS: the site now needs gazettement and implementation of the plan.

Recommended citation
BirdLife International (2021) Important Bird Areas factsheet: Parc National du Haut Atlas Oriental. Downloaded from on 20/04/2021.