Great Himalayan National Park: Beware as bear might appear all of a sudden…

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How many have heard name of Great Himalayan National Park (GHNP)? How many have visited it? For what objectives?

The Great Himalayan National Park (GHNP) is located in the Banjaar sub-division of the Kullu district of Himachal Pradesh. It is in the far western Himalayas in India. It was initially constituted in 1984, and formally notified as a national park in 1999. In June 2014, the Great Himalayan National Park was added to the UNESCO list of World Heritage Sites, under the criterion of outstanding significance for biodiversity conservation.

It is one of the most accessible park to observe rare Himalayan wild species: mammals, birds, reptiles, insects, etc. Reaching there is all right. But one will be wonder struck to know its internal access. You need to walk many kilometres from the main gate to reach its inner zone where better sightings may start. And you need to carry all your belongings over own shoulders. While coolies are available but they prove costly. 

Local residents act as Naturalists. They are your true guides. Need to have one to start up best of sightings. Mind you, they maintain your safety as well. Never know when a Brown Bear may confront you.

It happened with Naveen Kumar Singh and Nishant Nath Shukla who visited the park during last summer of 2022. The Bear appeared all of a sudden about 30 meters away.

Thanks to the wind blowing from its side to their side, and importantly to the Naturalist, who coughed to alert the predator. They heaved a sigh of relief!

Biodiversity surveys of GHNP in the past decade have identified 31 mammal species, 209 bird species, 12 reptile species, nine amphibian species, 125 insect species, and 832 plant species. It is a prominent attraction for bird watchers, who visit this park for many elusive Himalayan species like Western Tragopan, Lamergeier, Himalayan Griffon, Cheer Pheasant, and many passerine birds.

Experts from Tourism Wildlife Society of India (TWSI) have been visiting GHNP for the past 15 years. Nishant Nath Shukla has been there nine times. Naveen Kumar Singh, likewise, is sold out to that habitat of pristine values. They have observed many changes in its surroundings. Increased tourism activities in its surroundings have proven to be a boon to the stakeholders but at the same time increased the challenge to conserve this Himalayan Eden.

Naveen stated: the advantage is that GHNP is generally well buffered from threats because it is a high elevation remote system located in a larger complex of protected areas. However, it demands for infrastructure development from the villages within the World Heritage site pose emerging threats. Whilst concerns regarding the impacts of grazing and human settlements remain, these shortcomings in protective status are outweighed by the greatly improved integrity of the property.

Nishant added: the uncertain impacts of climate change on biodiversity values and their ecological underpinnings constitute a potential threat, which calls for timely research and adaptive action. They created a booklet of this park’s birds and handed it over to all students at a local school. It was to involve them in to wildlife conservation. Their session with students and teachers was a unique event. Its photo is published here.

Both Naveen and Nishant are Volunteers at Tourism & Wildlife Society of India (TWSI), an organization in service since 1980.

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