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Northern Mountain Forest Complex

Date of Submission: 25/02/2014
Criteria: (vii)(ix)(x)
Category: Natural
Submitted by:
Ministry of Environmental Conservation and Forestry of the Republic of the Union of Myanmar
State, Province or Region:
Kachin State
Ref.: 5871
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Property names are listed in the language in which they have been submitted by the State Party

Description

The Northern Mountain Forest Complex (NMFC) consists of Hkakabo Razi National Park (NP) and Hponkan Razi Wildlife Sanctuary (WS), along with a proposed Southern Extension of Hkakabo Razi NP.  Hponkan Razi WS, Hkakabo Razi NP, and the proposed Southern Extension form a contiguous property of more than 11,280 km2.  Elevation ranges from 50 m at the southern end of Hponkan Razi WS to over 5,800 m.  The property borders India and China and includes Mt. Hkakaborazi, which at 5,881 m is the highest peak in Southeast Asia.  Mt. Hponkan Razi rises to 5,165 m. 

The Northern Mountain Forest Complex includes a suite of forest types transitioning across 5,830 m of vertical elevation.  Subtropical evergreen forest at lower elevations transitions to temperate evergreen forest, mixed deciduous forest, pine-rhododendron forest, alpine meadows, and at the highest elevations into snow-capped alpine peaks.  Globally threatened wildlife includes the Black Musk Deer, Red Panda, and White-bellied Heron.

Hkakabo Razi NP was established in 1998 and covers 3,810 km2, making it the second largest protected area and largest national park in Myanmar.  It is also an ASEAN Heritage Park.  Hponkan Razi WS was gazetted in 2003 and covers about 2,700 km2 (Instituto Oikos and BANCA 2011).  Hkakabo Razi NP’s proposed Southern Extension covers the area south of the current park boundary to the northern edge of the Putao plain and from Hponkan Razi WS in the west to the N’mai Hka River in the East.  This area ranges in elevation from 500 to 2,900 m and covers 4,778 km2, which would more than double Hkakabo Razi NP’s area.  The area contained within the proposed extension is of particularly high bird endemism and diversity.

To the east, the property is contiguous with the Gaoligonshan Nature Reserve (NR), which is one component of the Three Parallel Rivers (TPR) of Yunnan Protected Areas WHS in China.  To the west, the property is contiguous with Namdapha NP in India.  Namdapha NP was submitted to India’s TL in March 2006 for criteria vii, ix, and x (UNESCO World Heritage Centre 2013a).  The contiguous area protected across Myanmar, India, and China in these three properties totals 17,390 km2.

The property is inhabited by a about 2,000 people, 500 of whom live in the town of Naung Mung inside the proposed Southern Extension.  The rest of the population, including the Rawang and Tibeto-Burman groups, live in smaller, scattered settlements along the river valleys.

A potential addition to the NMFC is the proposed Imawbum protected area, which is located 150 km to the southeast along the Chinese border and is connected to the NMFC through Gaoligongshan NR.  Imawbum strengthens the NMFC’s natural values by including habitat of the recently discovered CR Myanmar Snub-nosed Monkey (Rhinopithecus strykeri).  It lies within the Yunnan Endemic Bird Area. 

Justification of Outstanding Universal Value

The NMFC covers 11,280 km2 of Eastern Himalaya habitat across an altitudinal range from below 1,300 m to over 5,800 m.  It contains a diversity of forest types across this elevation gradient, from lowland evergreen forests up to alpine meadows.  This diversity of habitats supports a variety of endangered wildlife, including several that are endemic to the property.  Its position at the convergence of three biogeographical regions, Eurasia, the Indian subcontinent, and Indochina, has resulted in high levels of endemism and species richness.  It is also located at the convergence between Palearctic and Indo-Malayan ecozones, therefore containing both temperate and tropical components.  The Southern Extension strengthens the OUV of the property because it contains an area of high bird species richness and areas in which vertebrate species new to science have recently been discovered (Renner and Rappole 2011).  The very large size, diversity, and intactness of ecosystems across the NMFC, and its location next to large protected areas in China and India creates an exceptional contribution to conservation across the Eastern Himalayan range.

Criterion (vii): Hkakabo Razi NP and Hponkan Razi WS’s scenic beauty includes forest-covered mountains, undammed rivers flowing through deep canyons, sharp ridges, and stunning snow-capped peaks, including the highest mountain in Southeast Asia: Mt. Hkakabo Razi.  The dramatic landscape and natural state of the environment here combine to produce an exceptionally scenic landscape. 

Criterion (ix): The NMFC covers an area of outstanding size and ecological diversity.  At the transition between three biogeographical zones and two ecoregions, it is an area of high endemism and diversity that showcases evolutionary and ecological processes.  Even when not considered in combination with the contiguous protected areas in China and India, the NMFC provides sufficient scale and diversity for evolutionary processes to occur, including seasonal altitudinal migrations, potentially in response to climate change.  When transboundary properties are taken into account, it represents a still greater example of conservation at a landscape scale.

Criterion (x): Its location on multiple biogeographical transition zones has given the NMFC high species endemism and diversity.  Diversity of birds and butterflies is particularly high.  Surveys have recorded more than 80 species of amphibians and reptiles, 442 species of birds, 360 species of butterflies, 297 species of trees, and 106 species of orchids (Oikos and BANCA 2011; Renner et al. 2007).  Both Hkakabo Razi NP and Hponkan Razi WS are Important Bird Areas and lie within the Eastern Himalaya Endemic Bird Area (EBA 130), which includes 19 restricted-range bird species, 10 of which are globally threatened (BirdLife International 2013).

Since 1999, nine vertebrate species new to science have been described in the NMFC, including the Leaf Deer (Muntiacus putaoensis), catfish (Clupisoma sp.), new bird species and subspecies, including the Naung Mung Scimitar-Babbler (Jabouilleia naungmungensis), and several reptiles (Renner et al. 2007).  The Gongshan Muntjac (Muntiacus gongshanensis)andLeaf Deer (Muntiacus putaoensis) are both DD.  Considering the limited scientific exploration of the area it is likely that more will be discovered.  The proposed Southern Extension contains rainforest areas with high bird diversity, with many species’ ranges overlapping in the 900-1,500 m band.  This extension also has high endemism and is the site of multiple of the recent species discoveries in the NMFC (Renner and Rappole2011).  Globally threatened or DD species in the NFMC and proposed extension include (Myanmar Biodiversity 2012):

Mammals

EN: Black Musk Deer (Moschus fuscus), Shortridge’s Langur (Trachypithecus shortridgei), Chinese Pangolin (Manis pentadactyla), Dhole (Cuon alpinus)

VU: Red Panda (Ailurus fulgens), Red Goral (Naemorhedus baileyi), Takin (Budorcas taxicolor), Hoolock Gibbon (Hoolock spp.), Himalayan Black Bear (Ursus thibetanus), Sun Bear (Helarctos malayanus), Clouded Leopard (Neofelis nebulosa), Marbled Cat (Pardofelis marmorata), Bengal Slow Loris (Nycticebus bengalensis),Sambar (Rusa unicolor), Stump-tailed Macaque (Macaca arctoides)

Birds

CR: White-bellied Heron (Ardea insignis)

VU: Blyths Tragopan (Tragopan blythii), Sclater’s Monal (Lophophorus sclateri), Rufous-necked Hornbill (Aceros nipalensis), Beautiful Nuthatch (Sitta formosa), Snowy-throated Babbler (Stachyris oglei)

NT: Rusty-bellied Shortwing (Brachypteryx hyperythra)

Reptiles

EN: Keeled Box Turtle (Cuora mouhotii)

VU: Impressed Tortoise (Manouria impressa)

Plants

Endemic: Paphiopedilum wardii, Euonymus burimanicus, Euonymus kachinensis, Rhododendron spp.

Statements of authenticity and/or integrity

The NMFC enjoys a remarkable degree of ecological integrity.  Renner et al. (2007) report less than 0.01% deforestation annually between 1991 and 1999 and the deforestation that has occurred is concentrated in the sparsely populated river valleys, including Mali Hka and Nam Tamai, and in the flood plains of Putao and Naung Mung.  Swidden cultivation has created a patchwork of secondary forest fallows in various stages of regeneration extending up hillsides from inhabited river valleys.

Its very low population and inaccessibility have protected the NMFC from development.  Fewer than 8,000 people live in the property: 6,000 in Putao, which is located outside of the property, and 500 in Naung Mung, inside the proposed protected area.  Small settlements in the proposed extension are home to about 1,500 more people.

Threats to the property include potential logging and mining concessions.  Infrastructure development plans are reported around Putao and could result in in-migration and increased human impacts.  Other pressures include the commercial hunting of wildlife and gathering of non-timber forest products within the existing park boundaries.  The Black Musk Deer has been heavily hunted for use in traditional Chinese medicine and its population has declined across the region (Rao et al. 2010). 

Imawbum is currently or potentially impacted by dams, logging, and mines.  These may not necessarily pose a direct threat to the Myanmar Snub-nosed Monkey but do raise questions about the site’s long-term integrity and compatibility with the rest of the complex.

Hkakabo Razi NP and Hponkan Razi WS are both managed out of the same office in Putao, which should assist in their joint management as a single WHS.

Comparison with other similar properties

The most similar existing property is the adjacent Three Parallel Rivers of Yunnan WHS.  The upper elevations of these two sites include similar habitats, and while the TPR is larger, the NMFC stands out for maintaining a contiguous range of natural features in a near-pristine state and for including the valley bottoms and rivers within the property (Renner et al. 2007).