Eagle Nest Wildlife Sanctuary

by Aug 3, 2021Wildlife, Wildlife Sanctuary0 comments

Spread over an area of 217 sq km at an altitudinal range from 500 meters to 3500 meters from sea level under Shergaon Forest Division in the West Kameng District of Arunachal Pradesh, Eaglenest Wildlife Sanctuary is a major centerpiece of nature lovers all over the world. This unique sanctuary in this Himalayan region is also a successful model of joint government and community conservation endevour.

This sanctuary which was bifurcated from Pakke Wildlife Sanctuary in 2011 is a cradle of the world’s biodiversity as this is the richest biodiversity hotspot in the world after the Andes in South America.

A birder’s paradise, Eaglenest Wildlife Sanctuary, is a popular destination for all kinds of nature lovers and tourists who visit the place from October to March every year for study of its rich flora and fauna especially study of birds. Over 700 species of birds are found here, including 4 types of Hornbills, 3 types of Tragopan species; and 6 types of Parrotbill species. Bugun Liochigla, the only bird that exists in the world, is found in the sanctuary. It is also a safe shelter for 15 species of mammals including tiger. Besides these, various species of amphibians and lizards, moths and butterflies and vegetation including many varieties of rhododendrons are found in the region.

This is the centerpiece of the Kameng Protected Area Complex covering an area of 3,500 sq km of mostly contiguous forests spread across the two states of Assam and Arunachal Pradesh in five protected areas.

It is a part of the Kameng Elephant Reserve.

History

Eaglenest has derived its name from Red Eagle Division, a regiment of Indian Army which used to operate in the region in the 1950’s. Indian Army’s road-building company built the Foothill-Chaku-Tenga road through Eaglenest prior to the 1962 war, with Chaku being named after the company’s South Indian engineer. Foothill-Chaku-Tenga was the only drivable road providing passage to the plains of Assam. Chacku-Foothill-Tenga (CFT Road) runs through the sanctuary from Ramalingam , at a distance of 8km from Tenga to Kamengbari In Assam-Arunachal border .

The 14th Dalai Lama used this tract to travel from Tibet to the plains of Assam in 1959 and stayed at a site, called Sharua, at an elevation of 2500 mts ASL inside the Bugun community forest land. To commemorate his legacy, a site known as Lama Camp is set up at the site where tented accommodation facilities are offered to tourists by local tour operators.

During the 80’s, EagleNest saw lots of logging, timber cutting until the Supreme Court put an end to it.

Location and Geography

Eaglenest and Sessa Orchid Sanctuary together occupy a rough east–west rectangle with Sessa occupying the northeast quadrant. Eaglenest is bounded to the north by Eaglenest Ridge and the reserved forests of the Bugun community (Lama Camp area). Eaglenest adjoins Tawang district to the north. The Bhalukpong–Bomdila highway (and Pakke immediately beyond) are its eastern boundary. There are no distinct geographical features delineating its western boundary along the Bhutan border and the southern boundary at about 27° N latitude.

The eastern half of Eaglenest and Sessa sanctuaries is drained by the Tippi Naala (Tippi river) which joins the Kameng river at Tippi village on the Bhalukpong–Bomdila highway. Several smaller streams including Buhiri Nadi and Dihung Nadi in the western half of the area flow down to join the Brahmaputra separately.

Fauna

Eaglenest Wildlife Sanctuary is well known as a major birding area. It is home to at least 454 species of birds. The major birds here include Old World flycatchers, hornbills, warblers and thrushes. The sanctuary has the distinction of having three tragopan species, perhaps unique in India.

Eaglenest WLS is home to a wide variety of herpeto-fauna including at least 34 species of amphibians, 24 species of snakes and 7 species of lizards. Abor Hills agama was rediscovered at Eaglenest after 125 years. Other rare species include the Darjeeling false-wolfsnake which was only known to science through five specimens, Anderson’s mountain lizard, Günther’s kukri snake, common slug snake, and keelback snakes which have not been definitively identified.

The mammal species of endangered capped langur, Bengal tiger, Asian elephant, red panda, Asiatic black bear and the vulnerable, Arunachal macaque and gaur can also be spotted with butterflies species like Bhutan glory, grey admiral, scarce red-forester, dusky labyrinth, tigerbrown, jungle-queen sp, white-edged bush-brown, and white owl.

It was here that a new taxon of primate was discovered in 1997 by noted primatologist of northeast India, Dr Anwaruddin Choudhury. It was described as a new species, i.e., Arunachal macaque in 2004.

The highest elevation, 11,000 ft that the wild Asian elephants reach anywhere is partly in this sanctuary.

Eaglenest is the site where Bugun liocichla was first discovered in 1995 and again observed and described in 2006 by Dr. Ramana Athreya.

Bugun Liochichla

This unique sanctuary gained more prominence in 2006 with the rare discovery of Bugun Liochichla, a rare bird by Dr Ramana Athreya, an ornithologist and Head and co-ordinator, Biodiversity Research and Conservation, in the area. Dr Athreya started working here since 2003 by involving the local community members.

This species of bird is found only here in the entire world. The locals don’t have its name as they have not seen this bird in the past, informed Indi Glow, the head of Singchung Community Reserve Forest.

This discovery of Bugun Liochichla was described as the most sensational ornithological discovery in India during the last fifty years for which Dr Athreya was awarded several prizes including Pakhishree Award and Whitley Award for his endevour in conservation and motivation of local communities.

With the involvement of the locals by Dr Ramana Athreya in study of birds and subsequent discovery of Bugun Liochichla, some of local Bugun community members began to realize the importance of conservation of nature.
Ramana Athreya maintains that communities need to be made integral part of conservation effort. According to him, in Arunachal Pradesh, “Conservation largely operates in a knowledge vacuum. The management of wildlife sanctuaries is based on few data and with virtually no inputs from the communities who impact them most.” He believes that along with conservation, economic benefits should also be given to the communities.

At this point, the Divisional Forest Officer of Rupa Forest Division, Mr Millo Tassar, a young and energetic officer, began to motivate them further. After a series of discussions and meetings with the locals, he finally convinced them to involve actively in conservation process in a tract of community forest measuring about 17 sq km which is contiguous to the Eaglenest Wildlife sanctuary.

Presently this forest area is effectively managed by their NGO, called Singchung Community Reserve Forest. This NGO organizes awareness camps on conservation, which includes training on bird watching, snake handling and cleaning of plastics and other environmentally harmful objects used by visitors in the area.

The Buguns who were till recently hunters like many co-tribes of the state have now completely given up hunting and turned preservers of wildlife. According to Indi Glow, the transformation is in the interest of the locals as many of them have been absorbed in patrolling jobs, as tour guides and tour operators. Also their NGO receives monetary grants from both national and international environmental agencies.