Established in 1984 with an area of 3,555 sq. km., Shey-Phoksundo National Park is situated in the mountainous region of Western Nepal, covering parts of Dolpo and Mugu Districts. It is the largest national park in the country. The main objectives of the park are to preserve the unique trans-Himalayan ecosystem with its typical Tibetan type of flora and fauna, and to protect endangered species such as the snow leopard and musk deer.
Much of the park lie on the north of the Great Himalayan Range. Kanjiroba Himal lies at the southern edge of the trans-Himalayan region of the Tibetan plateau. The high Dolpa plateau in the northeast of the park is drained by the Langu River. The southern catchment of the park is drained by the Jugdula and Suligad Rivers, which flow south and drain into the Bheri River. Phoksundo Lake, Nepal's second largest lake, lies at 3660 m. in the upper reaches of Suligad.
The vegetation found in the park is diverse due to the influence of two different climates. The southern river valleys along Suligad contain luxuriant forests mainly comprised of blue pine, spruce, cypress, poplar, deodar, fir and birch. The Jugdula River valley consists mostly of Quercus species. The trans-Himalayan area has a near-desert type vegetation comprising mainly of dwarf juniper and caragana shrubs.
The park provides prime habitat for snow leopard and blue sheep. Other common animals found in the park are: goral, Himalayan tahr, serow, leopard, wolf, jackal, Himalayan black bear, Himalayan weasel, Himalayan mouse hare, yellow-throated marten, langur and rhesus monkeys.
The park is equally rich in birds. The commonly sighted birds are Impeyan pheasant (danphe), blood pheasant, cheer pheasant, red and yellow-billed choughs, raven, jungle crow, snow partridge and many others.
Sprint season (March-May) usually has fine weather although high passes still remain covered with the winter snow. Being located behind the main Himalayan range, the park is little affected by monsoon rains from June until September and the weather usually remains clear. The alpine flowers are at their best color during these months. In the winter temperatures drop below freezing, and occasional heavy snowfalls in mid-winter force trails to be closed for several days.
There are several settlements in the park. The lifestyle and culture of these residents are strongly reminiscent of Tibet. Local inhabitants believe in the Buddhist religion but the community of Phoksundo area practices Bon, a pre-Buddhist sect. Almost all villages have their own communal gompas.
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