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Eaglenest (or Eagle’s Nest) Wildlife Sanctuary (ENS) and Sessa Orchid Sanctuary (SOS) are located in West Kameng district, Arunachal Pradesh, in Northeast India. Both Eagle Nest (217 sq. km) and Seesa (100 sq. km) were notified as protected areas in 1989. The Kameng river and its tributaries (Tipi and Sessa) drain the area. There are a number of small natural waterbodies on the Piri-la ridge at 2,600–2,900 m, which range from tiny pools to lakes of 0.2 ha. The annual rainfall varies from <1,500 mm on the northern slopes to >3,000 mm on the southern slopes of the areas. Heavy snowfall is experienced in winter on Piri-la, while it is medium to low in other areas (especially above 2,000 m, occasionally down to 1,800 m). There are diverse habitats because of the great altitudinal range. Tropical Wet Evergreen and Semi-evergreen Forest occur in the southern parts of both the sanctuaries, especially in the river valleys and gorges, mainly below 900 m. The forest canopy includes tree species such as Tetrameles nudiflora (important for nesting of hornbills), Terminalia myriocarpa, Amoora wallichii and Duabanga sonneratioides. The middle layer includes Eugenia jambolana, Premna benghalensis, Albizzia procera and Macaranga denticulata. Broadleaf Subtropical Forest dominated by various oak species occurs at 800–1,900 m. Coniferous Subtropical Forest dominated by Pinus roxburghii, P. wallichiana and P. kesiya occurs at 1,000–1,800 m, especially in areas receiving less rainfall. Broadleaf Temperate Forest dominated by oaks, magnolias and rhododendrons, occurs at 1,800-2,800 m. Coniferous Temperate Forest dominated by Abies spectabilis, A. delavayi and Taxus baccata is found at 2,800–3,200 m. Abandoned jhums (areas of slash-and-burn cultivation) are covered with grasses such as Themeda villosa, Saccharum procerum and Imperata cylindrica, and various scrubs. There are also large clumps of bamboo, especially Arundinaria sp. (at 1,800–2,750 m), Dendrocalamus hamiltonii, Semiarundinaria pantlingi (at 2,700–2,900 m near Eaglenest pass), Thamnocalamus aristatus (above 2,700 m) and T. spathiflorus (over 3,050 m on Pirila ridge).
AVIFAUNA: A total of 353 species of birds have been recorded from these sanctuaries but more than 400 are likely to occur (Choudhury 2003).
The Vulnerable and Restricted Range bird Blyth’s Tragopan Tragopan blythii occurs in the Sessa Orchid Sanctuary and nearby areas but not frequently, as the species faces hunters regularly. One skin of this bird was examined by Choudhury (2003) which could be subspecies molesworthi, known from Bhutan, adjacent to Tibet and Arunachal Pradesh, as the specimen was darker (Choudhury 2003).
Vulnerable Rufous-necked Hornbill Aceros nipalensis is also found in this IBA but in low numbers as hunting is prevalent in the area (Choudhury 2003).
A male of the Vulnerable Rusty-bellied Shortwing Brachypteryx hyperythra was also sighted between Lamacamp and Saltlick at 2,600 m in October 2000 (Choudhury 2003). The rare and elusive Beautiful Nuthatch Sitta formosa is also reported from this IBA (Choudhury 2003).
The Restricted Range species such as Hoary-throated Barwing Actinodura nipalensis, Beautiful Sibia Heterophasia pulchella and White-naped Yuhina Yuhina bakeri have also been reported from this IBA (Ahmed 2002, Choudhury 2003).
Among the Near Threatened species, Satyr Tragopan Tragopan satyra, Great Hornbill Buceros bicornis, Ward’s Trogon Harpactes wardi have been reported (Choudhury 2003). Other important species include the Lesser Rufous-headed Parrotbill Paradoxornis atrosuperciliaris and the Greater Rufous-headed Parrotbill P. ruficeps.
Some other interesting birds found in this IBA are: Banded Bay Cuckoo Cacomantis sonneratii which was first record for the state (Choudhury 2003), and Rufous-bellied Eagle Hieraaetus kienerii recorded at 2,750 m elevation (known elevation is 1,500 m in Arunachal and 1,740 m in Bhutan) (Choudhury 2003, Grimmett et al. 1998).
OTHER KEY FAUNA: Red Panda.
Key contributors: Anwaruddin Choudhury, Firoz Ahmed and Kulojyoti Lahkar.
BirdLife International (2022) Important Bird Areas factsheet: Eaglenest and Sessa Sanctuaries. Downloaded from http://www.birdlife.org on 26/06/2022.