Namdapha, a National Park and Tiger Reserve, is a 1,985 km2 large protected area that lies in the international border between India and Myanmar (Burma) within Changlang District in the state of Arunachal Pradesh.
With more than 1,000 floral and about 1,400 faunal species, it is a biodiversity hotspot in the Eastern Himalayas. The national park harbours the northernmost lowland evergreen rain-forests in the world at 27°N latitude. It also harbours extensive dipterocarp forests, comprising the northwestern parts of the Mizoram-Manipur-Kachin rain forests ecoregion.
The reserve area of Namdapha first came into existence and notice to the international importance during the Second World War (2nd WW) due to its rich biodiversity. The latter half of the war was witnessed here with several pilots crashing at this site as a result of multiple air turbulence over the area. The Assam Rifles conducted its forts scouting in the Vijaynagar area and then in the year 1972, Namdapha was established as a wildlife sanctuary. The renovation work carried on to make the routes in a motorable condition. Further, in 1983, the park was declared a Tiger Reserve and National Park.
The area of Namdapha also proved to be the refugee camps for many immigrants and till today the Chakma, refugees from Bangladesh, are the recent immigrants to the area, being settled by the Indian government in the 1960’s in the areas between the town of Miao and the western edge of Namdapha.
Namdapha was originally declared a Wildlife Sanctuary in 1972, then a National Park in 1983 and became a Tiger Reserve under the Project Tiger scheme in the same year. Its name was combination of two Singpho words: “nam” means water and “dapha” means origin (river which originates from Dapha Bum glaciers). “Dapha” is also attributed as the name of a clan of Singpho tribe.
Location and Geography
The national park is located in Changlang district of the northeastern state of Arunachal Pradesh, near the international border with Myanmar. It spans an area of 1985 sq. km (766 sq mi) including a buffer zone of 177 sq. km (68 sq mi) and a core area of 1808 sq. km (698 sq mi).
It is located between the Dapha bum range of the Mishmi Hills and the Patkai range with a wide elevation range between 200 and 4,571 m (656 and 14,997 ft). It is crossed from east to west by the Noa Dihing River that originates at the Chaukan Pass, located on the Indo-Myanmar border.
The land cover changes with increasing elevation from tropical evergreen forest to temperate broadleaf and mixed forest. Secondary forests cover 345.47 km2 (133.39 sq mi); seasonal snow occurs at above 2,700 m (8,900 ft) between December and March. Additionally, the park has extensive bamboo forests.
The area falls under both the Pale-arctic and Indo-Malayan bio-geographic areas resulting in a diverse species assemblage.
The unique geographical position, varied topography, high annual precipitation spreading throughout the year have made this virgin forest very rich in floral diversity wherein not a single species can be termed as the dominant species of the area. The climate condition with favorable rainfall coupled with temperature gradients and high humidity makes the vegetation characteristic of tropical evergreen forests (Tropical Rain Forests) although the region is located 270N of geographical equator.
The flora of Namdapha protected areas is exceptionally rich, dense and diverse in species composition. It supports several endemics that have evolved locally or have survived only because of protective natural barriers against the invaders. In the phyto-geographical relationship and affinities, the flora of Namdapha Protected Area show greater affinities with Indo-Malayan flora, although it also harbors the plants of other part of India, neighbouring as well as far off countries along with its own flora.
On the basis of survey carried out in parts of this Protected Area, it has been found that there are :
- 73 species of lichens,
- 59 species of Bryophytes,
- 112 species of Heridophytes,
- 5 species of Gymnosperons and
- around 801 species of Angiosperms (Sharma et. Al 1990).
These do not include the floral elements of temperate and alpine regions that has not been explored due to inaccessibility and lack of infrastructure.
The beautiful forests possess great biodiversity of Flora and Fauna. A detailed study of its species and genetic variation has not yet been thoroughly done. Namdapha is Botanist’s dream and it may take as long as 50 years to complete a comprehensive survey of its botanical resources.
There are more than 150 timber species. The Pinus merkusi (Sumatran pine) and Abies delavavi (Delavay’s Fir) are not found elsewhere in India.
One of the rarest and endangered orchids, the Blue Vanda is found here. The most famous local medicinal plant Mishimi Teeta (Copti teeta), which is used by the local tribal for all kinds of diseases, is available here but its export has been banned.
Many plants found in Namdapha are rare, endangered or endemic species. Sapria himalayana and Balanophora spp. are rare root parasites of lianas and other plants. Of the 20 taxa of gymnosperms occurring in the North-East (out of a total of 54 for India), several are found in Namdapha, species of Amentotaxus, Cephalotaxus and Larix being endemic to this region. Some species, such as Pinus merkusii (Sumatran pine) and Abies delavayi (Delavay’s Fir) are found nowhere else in India. A variety of ferns are also found and among the most prominent is the primitive tree fern Cyathea sp. Several rare orchid species including Paphiopedilum fairrieanum (Host’s slipper Orchid) and Vanda caerulea (Blue Vanda) are found in Namdapha.
Namdapha PA is located at the junction of the Indian Sub-Continent Bio-geography region and the Indo-China Bio-geography Region (Dimerstein, E.et. al, 1997). Moreover, according to Kurup (1974) this belt is a faunal gateway through which the Indo-Chinese elements of the oriental as well as Palaearctic fauna could spread to India and colonize when the Indian Peninsula and Asiatic mass were linked through land mass. The most of the faunal dispersal has taken place through this gateway due to the natural barriers of the Thar desert in the West, the great oceans in the South and the high Himalayas in the North. As a result of this extensive diversity of fauna is observed from the fact that in every group along the evolutionary pathway, a large and diverse species complex exist in the area.
The Namdapha flying squirrel (Biswamoyopterus biswasi) was first collected in the park and described. It is endemic to the park and critically endangered. It was last recorded in 1981 in a single valley within the park.
Because of the elevation range from 300 to 4,500 m (980 to 14,760 ft) and vegetation zones from evergreen, moist deciduous to temperate broad-leaved and coniferous forest types to alpine vegetation, the park is home to a great diversity of mammal species. Four pantherine species (cat family) occur in the park: leopard (Panthera pardus), snow leopard (Panthera uncia), tiger (Panthera tigris) and clouded leopard (Neofelis nebulosa).
Hoolock Gibbons (Hylobates Hoolock), highly endangered and only ‘ape’ species found in India, dwells in this impenetrable virgin forest.
The park also has about 425 species of avi-faunas with many more to be recorded from work in the higher areas. There are five species of Hornbills recorded from the area. Several species of rare wren-babblers have been recorded in Namdapha. Other bird groups comprise laughing thrushes, parrotbills, shrike babblers, fulvettas and scimitar babblers.
The Snowy-throated Babbler is a rare species of Babbler found only in the Patkai and Mishmi hills and nearby areas in Northern Myanmar, is found in Namdapha.
Other rare, restricted range or globally endangered species include the Rufous-necked Hornbill, Green Cochoa, Purple Cochoa, Beautiful Nuthatch, Ward’s Trogon, Ruddy Kingfisher, Blue-eared Kingfisher, Whitetailed fish eagle, Eurasian Hobby, Pied Falconet, White-winged Wood Duck, Himalayan Wood-owl, Rufous-throated Hill-partridge, and White-cheeked hill partridge.
The inaccessibility of greater part of the park has helped to keep the forests in their pristine and virgin state in its natural form.
Popular Tourist Attractions in Namdapha
Miao Museum :
Maintained by the Namdapha park authorities, Miao Museum is located near to the Field Director’s Office. One of its rooms is selected for keeping the animal specimens collected from Namdapha and surrounding areas over the course of several surveys and decades. There are many snake and frog specimens as well as a large number of bird skins, mammal pelts and skulls. For greater interests, there is a complete skeleton of a large python mounted on the wall. A second room displays the clothing, tools and village life of the local people. The museum is open on all the working days.
Miao Mini Zoo (Miao) :
The Miao zoo is situated opposite to the museum near the Field Director’s Office. Several primates found in Namdapha are housed in the zoo, including hoolock gibbons, pig-tailed macaque, Assamese macaques, stump-tailed macaque and slow loris. Small carnivores will include Himalayan palm civet and other small mammals like porcupines and leopard cats. Among the other attractions are black bears and an enclosure with a gharial. Outside the zoo is a large enclosure with sambar and barking deer.
Moti Jheel (@buffer zone) :
By making a 10 mile walk of two to four hour from the forest department campsite, the tourists can find Moti Jheel. It is a small natural pool (or jheel) situated atop a plateau called Gibbon’s Land. The path to Moti Jheel is steep, but runs through beautiful deciduous and semi-evergreen forests, with moss-laden branches and trees covered in epiphytes. The path is a superb bird watching trail, where one can find specialties like the Green Cochoa and Rufous-throated Fulvetta. Gibbons, capped langur, Malayan giant squirrels and smaller squirrels can usually be sighted. During the rains, it is not uncommon to come across a mountain lizard (Japalura) or keeled box turtle. Although the pool is small and often overgrown with vegetation; but could be a good option for some kind of leisure walk.
Raja Jheel (@buffer zone) :
Raja Jheel can be reached by a path bifurcating from the main path between Hornbill and Firmbase just before Rani Jheel. The jheel is about an hour’s walk from Rani Jheel. Raja Jheel is a forest swamp that is now completely overgrown with vegetation, but the main attraction is the habitats and bird life en route to the swamp. The path to Raja Jheel continues to the mountains beyond the swamp, and can be resulted in a steep and difficult route on further trailing. The tourists can avail the camping experience on the way to Raja Jheel at a small stream in a valley, which is about a twenty-minute walk from Rani Jheel.
A beautiful forest camp on the bank of the river Noa-Dihing. It is located within the boundary of Namdapha National Park. One can enjoy the scenic beauty of overlooking Noa-Dihing river. The Forest Inspection Bungalow located at Deban itself surrounded by evergreen forest over looking the river Noa-Dihing is worth-staying. It is also ideal for trekking, hiking and angling on the river Noa-Dihing.
Located on the Noa-Dihing River bank 25 Km from the Deban Forest lodge. This is a popular camping site full of nature’s splendours. The track leading to the idyllic spot is enveloped by luxuriant forest and it is not un common to come across birds and wild animals on the way. For camping at Firm base, equipment and guide provided by the forest department is an unique experience.
Just 9 Km from Deban, this is as the name suggests is a homing ground for hornbills. Here flocks of these birds can be frequently spotted flying from one grove to another.
This pictureque camping spot, just 5 Km away from Deban, lies across the Noa-Dihing river can be reached by boat. An overnight stay here is enjoyable experience in jungle camping.
This is an enchanting camping site overlooking a large aquifer and derives its name from its several natural springs. You need to be extremely lucky for an opportunity to stay here overnight and experience close encounters with wild animals frequenting the water holes in the dark.
Camera Point :
This camping site, as the name suggests offers a vantage point for a breath-taking view of Namdapha and its lush green landscape.
Moti Jheel :
There are a pair of large forest-encased aquifers in this spot providing grazing pasture for a number of herbivorous. The 5 Km track from Gibbons land to this enchanting site is a veritable feast for bird watchers.
It is situated in the southeast periphery of Namdapha. This is the remotest and the last village in India wedged China and Myanmar and is the home land of Lisu (Yobin) tribe. The village is at a distance of about 120 Km from Deban. A weeklong trek through lush jungles is more enjoyable for those having a craving for adventure.