The Great Himalayan National Park (GHNP) is host to a wide variety of vertebrate fauna, reflecting its diversity of habitats and climatic zones and including 31 species of mammal, belonging to six orders ‒ primates, carnivorans, cloven-hoofed mammals, insectivores, rodents and lagomorphs (hares, rabbits and pikas).
Most Himalayan fauna are protected under the Indian Wildlife Act 1972, including the bharal (blue sheep), common leopard, snow leopard, Himalayan brown bear, Himalayan tahr (wild goat), musk deer and serow (goat-like antelope). The Himalayan musk deer and snow leopard are endangered species, whilst the Himalayan tahr is endemic to the western Himalaya.
An ongoing ban on hunting was issued by the State Government of Himachal Pradesh in 1980s.
The herbivorous Himalayan goral (antelope), Himalayan tahr and bharal are prey to common leopards in the forest zone and snow leopards above the tree line. Black bears also inhabit the forests, whilst brown bears are found in the alpine meadows.
Autumn (September to November) is the best season for sighting mammals at high altitude, after which they begin their migration to lower altitudes.
Lower down, the solitary Himalayan musk deer inhabits moist gorges filled with thick vegetation. These primitive deer produce valuable musk and, in some parts of the park, reach a relatively high density of six to nine animals per square kilometer.
The Great Himalayan National Park (GHNP) is home to 209 confirmed bird species, which attract birdwatchers from across the globe. These include the endangered western tragopan and four other pheasant species. Raptors (birds of prey) are also a major attraction of the park, including lammergeiers, Himalayan griffon vultures and golden eagles.
Below is a brief survey of the park’s birdlife, by season, terrain and altitude, followed by more detailed descriptions of particularly important species.
Survey of GHNP’s Bird Life
Long-tailed minivets, yellow-bellied fantails, wallcreepers, and white-collared and grey-winged blackbirds are all common at GHNP’s lowest altitudes in winter. Heavy snowfall from October to February may also force down more exotic species, such as the scaly-breasted wren babbler, variegated laughing thrush, spectacled finch and golden bush robin.
A few species of longer-distance migrants also prefer to overwinter in the park, including the blue-capped redstart, black-throated thrush and black-throated accentor.
The Himalayan rivers and streams support distinctive bird communities ‒ the most diverse of any mountain range on earth. The most prominent species are the white-capped and plumbeous water redstarts, which can be sighted during the summer at altitudes of up to 4,000m. The white-capped redstart is especially fond of the small, rapid streams that feed watermills in the valleys adjacent to the park.
Invertebrates play an important role in maintaining the Great Himalayan National Park’s life processes and are a vital component of its food webs. Other than flying insects, most of the park’s invertebrates have limited powers of dispersal and are very sensitive to disturbance of their habitats, making them useful indicators of the ecosystem’s health. Only very preliminary surveys of the park’s invertebrates have so far been conducted.
Amphibians and Reptiles
Due to cold climate, inaccessible habitat and lack of expertise, the herpetofauna of the Himalayan region is poorly studied. It has been reported that 27% of recorded reptile species and an enormous 40% of amphibians in the Himalaya Hotspot are endemic. This suggests there may be some endemic reptiles and amphibians in GHNP.
The most common amphibian in GHNP is the Himalayan toad which, when handled, secretes a corrosive fluid. Other amphibians include the marbled toad, Stoliczka’s frog and the beautiful stream frog, which has a large sucker used for clinging to rocks in fast-flowing streams.
Reptiles include the Kashmir rock, which inhabits holes and crevices in rocks, the Himalayan ground, which prefers damp areas or open grasslands, and the Karakoram bent-toed gecko, which lives under stones and in crevices.
GHNP is also home to several snake species, such as the docile eastern keelback, the Indian rat snake and the Himalayan pit viper.