Mawphlang Sacred Grove

Year of compilation: 2004

Site description
This IBA site is a sacred grove near Mawphlang village in East Khasi Hills district, 25 km from Shillong, the capital city of Meghalaya. The grove is known as ‘Law-Lyngdoh’. In Meghalaya, the local communities have protected small areas of primary forest as sacred groves since time immemorial. The villagers believe that departed souls of ancestors abide in these forests. No one collects fruits, flowers, leaves and wood from these forests. The villagers believe that this would offend the sylvan deities. These tiny forests are more or less untouched by man for centuries. The site near Mawphlang is the most well known of the sacred groves. Tourists, researchers as well as picnickers visit the area. Two celebrated British botanists who studied this site were Sir J. D. Hooker in the 19th century and Dr N. L. Bor in the 20th century. The terrain of the area is undulating, and scenic.The grove is spectacular in spring, with two species of rhododendrons in bloom. The forest of Law-Lyngdoh Sacred Grove is Subtropical Broadleaf type, although the Khasi Pine Pinus kesiya dominates the surrounding areas. The main flowering trees are Rhododendron formosum, R. arboreum and Pyrus pashia, Some other noteworthy shrubs and trees include the oak Quercus griffithii, Daphne cannabina and Symplocos cochinchinensis. There are ferns such as Lindsaea odorata, and species of Botrychium, Peraneum, Dryopteris and Polypodium (Hajra 1975). The areas surrounding the scared grove are totally barren.

Key biodiversity

AVIFAUNA: About 70 species of birds have been reported from this 300 ha site (Lahkar 2002). Robson (2000) has heard the globally threatened Tawny-breasted Wren Babbler Spelaeornis longicaudatus at Mawphlang in mid April. It appeared to be common, occurring in non-forest habitat (secondary growth, dense fern growth etc.) as well as undergrowth in forest. This is the only known globally threatened bird species found till now on this site but more species are likely to occur here. The site lies in the Eastern Himalayas Endemic Bird Area (EBA), in which Stattersfield et al. (1998) have listed 21 Restricted Range species. Besides the Tawnybreasted Wren Babbler, the Grey Sibia Heterophasia gracilis has been seen (Lahkar 2002). BirdLife International (undated) has categorized birds according to biome-restricted assemblages. This site is located in Sino- Himalayan Subtropical Forest (Biome-8). Ninety-five species are listed in this biome, out of which only six have been located at this site till now (Lahkar 2002). They are Blyth’s Kingfisher Alcedo hercules, Golden-throated Barbet Megalaima franklinii, Black-winged Cuckoo-Shrike Coracina melaschistos, Shortbilled Minivet Pericrocotus brevirostris, Maroon Oriole Oriolus traillii and Grey Treepie Dendrocitta formosae. However, more are likely to be found as the habitat is intact.

OTHER KEY FAUNA: As the area is very small (100 ha), and the surrounding areas are totally barren, no large mammal is found. Only small mammals such as squirrels, moles and rats are found. So far the following species have been recorded: Himalayan or Shorttailed Mole Euroscaptor micrura, Mole-shrew or Szechuan Burrowing Shrew Anourosorex squamipes, Savi’s Pigmy Shrew Suncus etruscus (a specimen was obtained by W. Koelz in 1953) and Grey Shrew Crocidura attenuata. A number of bat specimens were obtained at Mawphlang and are now in the Field Museum of Natural History at Chicago. These include the Woolly Horseshoe Bat Rhinolophus luctus, R. subbadius, Rufous Horseshoe Bat R. rouxii, Intermediate Horseshoe Bat R. affinis, Hodgson’s Bat Myotis formosus, Whiskered Bat M.

mystacinus, Little or Tibetan tube-nosed Bat Murina aurata, M. tubinaris, and Orange or Round-eared Tube-nosed Bat Murina cyclotis (Choudhury 2001).

Pressure/threats to key biodiversity
MAIN THREATS: Road construction; Occasional removal of plant materials and Non Timber Forest Produce; Poaching.

Although this IBA is a sacred grove and is maintained as such to a great extent, it is not completely safe or sacred now. The new generations find it difficult to believe in the traditional sylvan deities. Most of the people of the surrounding areas have converted to Christianity and have lost touch with their traditional faiths (Tiwari et al. 1999). The degradation of sacred groves near Cherrapunji should be an eye-opener for environmentalists. It is high time that the State gets involved with the village councils to protect such areas of rich biodiversity. Regardless of belief in deities, such areas are symbols of a vanishing natural and cultural heritage, and their protection would serve to preserve water catchment areas as well. A road has been constructed through the grove, damaging part of it.

Recommended citation
BirdLife International (2021) Important Bird Areas factsheet: Mawphlang Sacred Grove. Downloaded from on 16/01/2021.