Himalayas

The Himalayas have captured people's imaginations for centuries. It's a region of stunning landscapes and incredible diversity. From the world's highest snowbound peaks to the region's rich alpine meadows, dense temperate forests and humid lowland jungles. Through our Living Himalayas Initiative we are working to protect this diverse mosaic of life.

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© WWF

Who lives here?

Stretching almost 2,500km from east to west, the Himalayas is home to millions of people and hundreds of unique species. In the Eastern Himalayas alone there are some 10,000 types of plant, 750 species of bird and 300 species of mammal - many of them found nowhere else on the planet. Not to mention the region's iconic, yet threatened species, including the: It is also a region of fascinating cultural and spiritual heritage, where millions of people from diverse cultures and religions, live alongside these unique species.
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Like a heart pumping blood around a body, the Himalayas is the source of many of Asia's great river systems.
© WWF

Why are we here?

Despite its rugged reputation the Himalayas is a mosaic of fragile environments that face a range of challanges. It is the source of 6 of Asia's great rivers, including the Yangtze, Indus and Ganges, but changes in climate are affecting their flow. Melting glaciers and causing floods as glacial lakes burst their banks, whilst downstream water availability is becoming increasingly uncertain as unpredictable seasons bring either too much water or too little.

Both the people and wildlife of the region depend on the natural resources of the Himalayas. Yet as human populations increase people are using the resources faster than the Himalayas can replenish them. Forests are becoming fragmented, which is a serious problem for species like the tiger and elephant that need large territories to wander in.

People and wildlife are increasingly coming into contact as the wild spaces decrease, and the human populations grow. This causes conflict as wild animals destroy crops and kill livestock. Poaching also remains a constant threat as the booming Asian markets offer huge financial gains to people with few opportunities. 

What are we doing?

Protecting species and habitats, and promoting sustainable development. Through our Living Himalayas Initiative we are helping to protect, restore and reconnect natural landscapes across the Eastern Himalayas. Our aim is to make sure plant and animal species can thrive, whilst local communities are able to maintain and improve their livelihoods. This includes the sustainable use of natural resources from forests, grasslands and freshwater systems.

Conecting landscapes. We want to help conserve and connect a mosaic of forests, grasslands and wetlands covering more than 7 million hectares; protecting and restoring habitats, minimizing human-wildlife conflicts and securing the source waters of some of Asia's major river systems.

Preparing for change. We're trying to improve our understanding of the impacts of climate change, and develop plans that will allow humans and wildlife to cope with these changes. We also want to ensure that tourism, oil, gas and hydropower develop in sustainable ways that pose no threat to the environment or the region's incredible biodiversity.
 / ©: Klein & Hubert / WWF
The snow leopard (Uncia uncia) is one of our most iconic yet threatened species. We are working to protect the snow leopard through education and sustainable development, the control of the illegal wildlife trade and the protection of its natural environment.
© Klein & Hubert / WWF

WWF's Goals for the region:

    • Climate change adaptation and biodiversity conservation mainstreamed into the management of river systems.
    • A mosaic of over 7 million hectares of forest, grassland and wetland secured, connecting 1,500 km of conservation area.
    • Viable populations of iconic and threatened species secured and living in harmony with the human population.

FACTS & FIGURES:

    • Nations: Afghanistan, Bhutan, China, India, Myanmar, Nepal, Pakistan.
    • Regions: Eastern Himalayas & Western Himalayas.
    • Age: 70 million years. The youngest mountain range in the world!
    • Formation: A collision between the Indo-Australian and Eurasion plates. 
    • Length: 2,415 km (1,500 miles).
    • Area: 750,000 km2
    • Highest peak: Mount Everest in Nepal (8,848m). The highest in the world!
    • Species: Over 10,000 plant, 900 bird, and 300 mammal species!
    • Threatened: Bengal tiger, Asian elephant, greater one-horned rhino, red panda, snow leopard, black-necked crane, Gangetic dolphin...
    • Glaciers: About 15,000 (over 12,000 kmof freshawater!).
    • Rivers: Source of 2 of the worlds great river systems: The Indus and the Brahmaputra-Ganges.
    • Population: Around 40 million, although the combined drainage basin is home to some 3 billion people in 18 countries (almost 1/2 the world's population!).

WWF's Milestones in the region:

    • 1970s: 'Project Tiger' - established a network of tiger reserves in India.
    • 1980s: Restablished the rhino population in Nepal with the first ever rhino translocation. Created the Annapurna Conservation Area in Nepal.
    • 1990s: Helped expand Bhutan's prtected area to 51%. Created Bhutan Trust Fund for Environmental Conservation generating over $30 million.
    • 2000s: Helped develop government plans for the management of the Terai Arc and Sacred Himalayan landscapes in Nepal. Helped the handover of the Kachenjunga Conservation Area from the Nepalese government to local communities. WWF-India helped establish Rhino Vision 2020 for the long-term survival of the species.
    For more info see our 'Solutions' >>

WWF's Vision for the region:

  • 'A Harmonious mosaic of healthy, vibrant landscapes providing plentiful resources for people, whilst giving wildlife space, and securing the ecological and cultural treasures of the Himalayas.' 

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