Eaglenest and Sessa Sanctuaries

Year of compilation: 2004

Site description
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).

Key biodiversity

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).


Pressure/threats to key biodiversity
MAIN THREATS: Felling; Jhum cultivation; Hunting; Development activities, e.g. dam project.

Though large-scale tree felling is not seen in these protected areas, occasional illegal felling, especially along the Doimara Nullah (valley) does occur. In the reserved forests and unclassed areas, felling has stopped since 1996-1997. Prior to that, large-scale logging operations were conducted on the slopes facing Rupa, Jigaon, and in Chilipam (southwest of Rupa) and Shergaon areas.

Slash-and-burn shifting cultivation (jhum) has also destroyed some fine natural forest outside SOS (southeast of Tenga Valley). Accidental and deliberate forest fires have ravaged large parts of ENS and SOS, especially in the higher areas with temperate conifers.

Charaching is still a major conservation problem, except in the interior inaccessible areas of ENS and SOS. However, it occurs on the fringe, occasionally along the Tenga-Doimara road and in the adjacent forests outside the sanctuaries. Some hunters use trained dogs to chase mammals such as Goral Nemorhaedus goral and galliform birds. Except for larger birds such as Hornbills, hunting with guns is still not very significant. However, Tragopans, Hill Partridges and Kaleej Pheasants are regularly snared along the Tenga-Doimara road and the Bomdila-Bhalukpong road.

Protection measures need to be considerably strengthened. An increased presence of wildlife staff is necessary at Khellong to protect the western part of ENS.

With the possible opening of the Tenga-Doimara route for vehicular traffic in the near future, protection measures along the road must be strengthened. Camps should be set up at Sissini, Bompu, Chaku, and Sundarview, with a larger one at Lamacamp. The wildlife staff should be provided with better infrastructural facilities such as jeeps, motorcycles and modern firearms. Charaching, including snaring by labourers, should be stopped through stricter law enforcement.

Road construction, especially the Tenga-Doimara road, which bisects the ENS, has severe impacts on the area. The labourers fell trees for fuel and building material, and hunt galliformes with snares. The General Road Engineer’s Force, which is responsible for development and maintenance of the road network, should prohibit poaching and substitute coal or other materials for fuel and heating.

The ENS should be extended to cover the 15 sq. km strip of forest from Eaglenest Pass to Tamam Top. This stretch is easily accessible from Ramalingam, has great tourism potential, includes 4-5 small lakes, is excellent for birdwatching, and in summer it supports the Asian elephant Elephas maximus. The Tenga-Doimara road should form its eastern boundary up to Alubari (north of Lamacamp). Among important bird records from this proposed area were Satyr Tragopan Tragopan satyra, Ward’s Trogon Harpactes wardi, Gould’s Shortwing Brachypterys stellata, Rusty-bellied Shortwing Brachypteryx hyperythra, Broadbilled Warbler Tickellia hodgsoni, Hoary-throated Barwing Actinodura nipalensis, Beautiful Sibia Heterophasia pulchella, White-naped Yuhina Yuhina bakeri and Greater Rufous-headed Parrotbill Paradoxornis ruficeps.

Further survey work should be carried out in the Doimara Nullah in ENS, and in the upper reaches of Tipi Nullah, and the hill top areas of SOS.

Key contributors: Anwaruddin Choudhury, Firoz Ahmed and Kulojyoti Lahkar.

Recommended citation
BirdLife International (2022) Important Bird Areas factsheet: Eaglenest and Sessa Sanctuaries. Downloaded from on 26/06/2022.