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.

Namdapha National Park

May 8, 2009

Namdapha National Park is a large (1,985.23 square kilometers) national park and tiger reserve located in Arunachal Pradesh. It has a very large number of different kinds of animals and plants living there, making it well worth a visit. This wide range of animals and plants is due to its location in Arunachal Pradesh, and also the fact that there is a huge variation in altitude across the park. At its highest point, the park is 4,500 meters above sea level while at its lowest point it is just 200 meters above seal level.

A scheme to create a national park was already proposed in 1947, when Arunachal Pradesh was still known as North East Frontier Agency or NEFA. The valley of the Diyan or the Noah-Dehing River and its catchment area was chosen as the site for the project, whose aim was to establish a national park for public recreation as well as the research and study of wildlife in their natural habitat. However, as a result of some controversy, the project became pending and didn’t take off.

After the Sino-Indian War happened in 1962, papers pertaining to the project could not be traced until 1969. At that time interest for the project was revitalized and an area that extended up to the Patkai range and Dapha Bum range was proposed. The Deupty Commissioner of Khonsa proposed to the Director of the Forestry Department that since the area is situated in the inter-district boundary between Lohit and Tirap, it would be more suitable to rename it Namdapha Reserved Forest. It was eventually declared as such under the Assam Forest Regulation in 1970. It was eventually proposed to be turned into a wildlife sanctuary and, eventually, in 1972, it became one after persistent follow-ups from the Forestry Department. In 1983, Namdapha Reserved Forest was declared as a National Park. In the same year, under the Project Tiger scheme of the Government of India, it was declared a Tiger Reserve.

The park is largely mountainous and is drained by three rivers: the Namdapha River, the Deab River and the Noah-Dehing River. The habitat changes according to altitude. In the lower altitudes, tropical rain forests with huge hollock and mekong trees abound. The mid-altitude has deciduous forests while higher still, oak, pine and betula trees are found. Namdapha National Park is a botanical haven, with over 150 species of trees and flowers are found, including the Blue Vanda, the rarest of orchids. The major fauna include more than 425 species of birds while mammal-lovers can be amazed by at least seven species of non-human primates and at least four species of large cats, including the leopard, the snow leopard, the clouded leopard and the famous tigers as well as lesser cats; in fact it is the only park in the world to have those four in one area.

The park is located in the Changlang district of Arunachal Pradesh, between the Dapha Bum range of the Mishmi Hills and the Patkai range. The park can be reached by air via the nearest airport at Mohanbari. Via railway, it can be reached either through the Tinsukia Railway Station or the Margherita Railway Station. There is also a good road that connects up to Miao, which is the entry point of Namdapha.