Eaglenest Wildlife Sanctuary

May 11, 2009

The West Kameng District in Arunachal Pradesh state in India has a haven for bird watchers and avian lovers. Named the Eaglenest Wildlife Sanctuary, this protected area in the foothills of the Himalayan region serves as a sanctuary for hundreds of bird species as well as covering a wide variety of habitats, from the evergreen forests that one can find in the foothills to the sub-alpine rhododendron bushes found at 2800 meters up. This sanctuary also marks a historic place in Indian avian history, as it is where the Bugun Liolichla, a brilliantly-colored laughingthrush bird, is found. This bird was first discovered in 1995 and was again observed and described by Ramayana Athreyaa in 2006. Eaglenest Sanctuary’s altitude ranges from 500 meters to 3,250 meters above sea level.

The sanctuary conjoins another sanctuary to the northeast, the Sessa Orchid Sanctuary. Together they occupy a rough rectangle, with Sessa found on the northeast quadrant. The sanctuary is also adequately drained, with the Tippi Naala joining the Kameng River at Tippi village on the Bhalukpong-Bimdila highway. There are also several smaller streams in the western half of the area that eventually drain to the Brahmaputra. This makes the lush forests and vegetation in the area thrive wonderfully, making for a wonderful and living biodiversity.

Eaglenest Wildlife Sanctuary is isolated, and it only has one serviceable road leading through it. This makes it hard for poachers and hunters to get in and wreak havoc to the sanctuary’s ecosystem. The absence of any settlement inside Eaglenest is also one of the detriments to hunting. The sanctuary is administered by the Divisional Forest Officer at Seijusa, who also happens to be the Field Director of the nearby Pakke Tiger Reserve. Assisting the officer is a Range Forest Officer in Singchung and Beat Forest Offices in Khellong and Ramalingang.

Due to the diverse species of birds found inside the sanctuary, Birdlife International has declared Eaglenest as an Important Bird Area (IBA IN344). However, birds aren’t the only species that rely on the sanctuary for their continued survival. It also plays an important role for the conservation and continued existence of the Asian Elephant. The elephants regularly move up from the Assam plains to the Eaglenest Ridge in summer, which is probably the highest altitude that elephants can reach in India. However, excessive forest clearings and illegal encroaching in the nearby forests have forced the elephants to stay in the Eaglenest area, probably leading to the depletion of food sources if illegal logging and clearing are not addressed by the Indian government.

There are several reasons that make Eaglenest Sanctuary different from the other wildlife reserves in the region. For one, it is still easily accessible even during the monsoon seasons. Since some birds breed during monsoon and certain cold-blooded animals are only visible in Arunachal Pradesh during the rainy days, it is important for some scientists to be able to have access to their natural habitats during monsoon. Also, since there is an airport at Guwahati, tourists can hop off the plane and be at Eaglenest in less than 5 hours. This ease of access makes the sanctuary a very ideal place to study the flora and fauna in the Indian region.

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