Chayang Tajo - Khenewa - Lada

Year of compilation: 2004

Site description
Chayang Tajo – Khenewa - Lada, a high mountain region of about 2,000 sq. km, in the Eastern Himalaya, in East Kameng district is one of the least known IBAs of Arunachal Pradesh. The less accessible areas still have excellent forest cover. The area is drained by the Kameng river and its tributaries. Owing to its altitudinal variation from 1,000 to 5,000 m, it has faunal and floral elements of the lower, middle and upper Himalayas. In the lower reaches, Tropical to Subtropical Evergreen Forests occur. Further up, Temperate Broadleaf and Coniferous Forests are seen and then the Subalpine and Alpine Forest. The high peaks remain snowcapped for the greater part of the year. There are a few high-altitude lakes. The northern boundary is close to Indo-China border (Tibet). The top canopy trees of Tropical Wet Evergreen and Semi-evergreen are Tetrameles nudiflora (important for nesting of hornbills), Terminalia myriocarpa, Amoora wallichi and Sterculia villosa. Abandoned jhums (shifting cultivation) are covered with various species of grass such as Themeda villosa, Saccharum sp. and Imperata sp.

Key biodiversity

AVIFAUNA: There may be more than 300 bird species in this IBA. A recent survey in a few select areas revealed the presence of more than 100 species, of which at least 74 were identified (Choudhury 2002).

The area includes three biomes, Sino-Himalayan Subtropical Forest and Sino-Himalayan Temperate Forest, with some high elevation areas forming part of Eurasian High Montane (Alpine and Tibetan), i.e., the biomes 5, 7 and 8. However information on the avifauna is limited.

Choudhury (2002) has reported three species of pheasants: Temminck’s Tragopan Tragopan temminckii, Black-breasted Kaleej Lophura leucomelanos lathami and Grey Peacock-Pheasant Polyplectron bicalcaratum. None of them are globally threatened. The Rufous-throated Hill-Partridge Arborophila rufogularis is also found. The Chestnut-breasted Partridge Arborophila mandellii, a globally threatened species, may also occur.

One of the most interesting features of this site (and other IBAs in West Kameng, Lower Subansiri) is the discovery of a new pheasant of genus Lophophorus (Monal) by Kumar and Singh (1999). It is suspected to be a hitherto undescribed subspecies of the Sclater’s Monal Lophophorus sclateri or an altogether different species. The males of the new monal appeared very similar to the male of Sclater’s Monal, except for the completely white tail in the former.

There are confirmed records of globally threatened Rufous-necked Hornbill Aceros nipalensis and Restricted Range Beautiful Sibia Heterophasia pulchella. The site lies in Eastern Himalaya Endemic Bird Area (EBA) (Stattersfield et al. 1998). Presently, only one Restricted Range species has been confirmed from this site, but according to A. U. Choudhury (pers. comm. 2003), there would be many more.

We have selected this site as an IBA based on its excellent forest cover and for having species from three biomes: Eurasian High Montane (Tibetan and Alpine), Sino-Himalayan Temperate Forest, and Sino-Himalayan Subtropical Forest.

OTHER KEY FAUNA: Chayang Tajo-Khenewa-Lada is difficult to reach, so the large mammal community is still intact in many valleys and forested hills. At lower reaches, Temminck’s Golden Cat Catopuma temmincki, Clouded Leopard Neofelis nebulosa and Tiger Panthera tigris are found, while Leopard Panthera pardus has a much wider distribution. In the temperate forest, Red Panda Ailurus fulgens is found, while Musk Deer Moschus chrysogaster is found in subalpine and alpine regions. Other mountain ungulates are Takin Budorcas taxicolor, Goral Nemorhaedus goral, Serow Nemorhaedus sumatraensis. Chief forest ungulates are Sambar Cervus unicolor, Barking Deer Muntiacus muntjak and Wild Boar Sus scrofa (Choudhury 2002).

Pressure/threats to key biodiversity
MAIN THREATS: Timber operations; Jhum cultivation; Poaching.

There is no officially designated protected area (sanctuary or national park) in this vast tract of the Eastern Himalaya. Large-scale tree felling in the past has already denuded large parts of East Kameng. Between Seppa and Chayang Tajo, there is hardly any primary forest left (Choudhury 2002). Jhum cultivation has also contributed to the loss of tree cover over large areas on both sides of the Kameng river. Large stretches of forest, however, are still seen in the higher reaches beyond Chayang Tajo and Lada. This is because these areas are still inaccessible by road, and jhum is also difficult due to the cold climate. However, intensive shifting cultivation was seen near the Seppa area, the district headquarters.

Around Chayang Tajo circle, apart from clearing forests for cultivating rice, the tribals also clear forests to plant palm trees (Arenga spp.) locally known as ‘Thasae’ from which they extract a powdery mass (Kumar and Singh 1999). This, along with bamboo shoots collected in the forest, forms the staple diet of the local people for most part of the year. These plantations are maintained mainly along water courses.

Charaching is still a major conservation issue as the Bangnis, the main tribe of the area, are well known hunters. In fact, they eat flesh of almost all species of mammals and birds. Sulungs and Mijis inhabit extreme north and west, respectively. Both these tribes also hunt almost all species for food or for cultural reasons. For instance, hornbills are killed to make ceremonial headgear from the beaks.

As this site is Data Deficient but presumably very rich in flora and fauna, detailed surveys should be conducted. The higher areas, from above Lada to the mountain ridge northwest of Chayang Tajo, should be brought under some sort of protection in view of the rich biodiversity and low human population (Choudhury 2002). This area has pheasants, Rufous-necked Hornbill and many Restricted Range species. Among mammals, Takin, Golden Cat Felis temmincki, Clouded Leopard Neofelis nebulosa and Red Panda Ailurus fulgens are found in almost virgin forests.

There is not much conservation awareness in this area. For example, even the local government emporium sells skins of Capped Langur Presbytis pileatus. The skin is mainly used to cover handles of cutting tools, known as dao. Incidentally, the Capped Langur is included in Schedule I of the Indian Wildlife (Protection) Act.

Recommended citation
BirdLife International (2019) Important Bird Areas factsheet: Chayang Tajo - Khenewa - Lada. Downloaded from on 23/04/2019.