Year of compilation: 2004
AVIFAUNA: Not much is known about the bird life of North Sentinel Island as the tribals resist the entry of outsiders, but South Sentinel has been visited by many naturalists and bird watchers. Osmaston (1908) visited it in 1907 to study the Pied Imperial Pigeon and Nicobar Pigeon Caloenas nicobarica. The former still nests in huge numbers all over the island, and the latter in small numbers. It is estimated that South Sentinel has at least ten Restricted Range species, of which one, the Andaman Crake Rallina canningi is globally Threatened. The endemic Andaman Teal Anas gibberifrons could be present (Ravi Sankaran pers. comm. 2002). In South Sentinel, one pair of White-tailed Eagle Haliaeetus albicilla, a Near Threatened species, has become an almost permanent feature.
OTHER KEY FAUNA: As mentioned earlier, North Sentinel has not been explored and we do not have any information on its fauna, but it is supposed to be largely intact, as the tribals sustainably harvest their needs. On South Sentinel, one of the flagship invertebrate species of the Andaman and Nicobar Islands, the Giant Robber Crab, is found in large numbers. It is nocturnal and spends the day time in large hollows of old Sea Mohwa trees, which are the dominant trees of the island.
Green Sea Turtle Chelonia mydas breeds on the long sea beach of South Sentinel (Seksharia 2000). Earlier, they used to “swarm round the island, coming on shore in the evening to lay their eggs” but now the population is not so large, at least around South Sentinel, due to extensive poaching by fishing trawlers. The Leatherback Turtle Dermochelys coriacea also occurs, but in smaller numbers. Saltwater Crocodile Crocodylus porosus and Andaman Water Monitor Varanus salvator andamanensis, are supposed to be common on both islands. The Andaman Emerald Gecko Phelsuma andamanense, also called Andaman Day Gecko, is active during the day, unlike most other geckos which are nocturnal. It has a peculiar distribution, being found not in mainland Asia but in the oceanic islands of Mauritius, Seychelles, Reunion and Madagascar (Daniel 2002). There is no indigenous terrestrial mammal, except the endemic Andaman Horseshoe Bat Rhinolophus cognatus.
There have been repeated attempts by the Government to make contact with the Sentinelese to ‘civilize them’ but till now they have not succeeded. Based on the experiences of other such islands and ‘primitive’ people, the impact on nature would not be positive, if the Sentinelese are brought into the so-called mainstream. Presently, the Sentinelese manage to subsist on forest produce, harvesting it sustainably mainly because of their small population and by the use of primitive hunting methods and tools.
BirdLife International (2021) Important Bird Areas factsheet: North and South Sentinel. Downloaded from http://www.birdlife.org on 18/10/2021.