ENDANGERED FLORA AND FAUNA OF THE HIMALAYAS
Conservation Efforts in Uttaranchal
Uttaranchal is the newest state in India, carved out of the state of Uttar Pradesh in the year 2000. It comprises the Shivalik range of hills adjacent to China and Nepal in the north and the foothills adjacent to Uttar Pradesh in the south.
Uttaranchal is the natural habitat of more than 4000 species of flowering plants and over 300 varieties of birds, many of which fall in the category of ‘endangered species’ today, because of hunting and increase in the traffic of trekkers and tourists.
MONAL PHEASANT (Lophophorus Imepijanus) is one such rare bird. About 1\2 to 1 1\2 ft. tall, it has the body and head covered with lustrous peacock-blue fir, a canary-yellow feathered short tail and a peacock like crown, which give it a majestic appearance. Its natural habitat is at altitudes of 8,000-15,000 feet, where it prefers to live inside bamboo and tiger-grass bushes instead of nesting. It lays eggs twice a year in snow, which hatch after 30 days. The Government of India imposed a ban on its hunting way back in 1972, but with little success.
Likewise, BRAHMAKAMAL, meaning Divine Lotus (Saussurea Obvalata) is a sacred flower growing above 10,000 feet, unlike Lotus, among hard rocks instead of ponds.
It has large ethereal translucent white petals, shaped somewhat like a tulip, over a bright green stem. Local people, besides offering to deities, also use it to treat open wounds and bone fractures.
The State Government of Uttaranchal has adopted MONAL as the ‘Bird of the State’ and BRAHMAKAMAL as the ‘Flower of the State’. Sanctuaries have been planned between the Tunganath Temple (12,000 ft) – Chandrasila (13,000 ft) region and the Mandal (5,000 ft) – Kharak (15,700 ft.) region for conserving MONAL.For the BRAHMAKAMAL, in addition to the ‘Valley of Flowers’ (12,000 ft.) which is its natural habitat today, efforts are planned to cultivate this rare flower in ‘Reserves’of selected vast meadows at altitudes of 2,000 – 6000 ft in Uttaranchal.
Author: GAJENDRA MAITHANI / Gopeshwar