Sunabeda Wildlife Sanctuary

Year of compilation: 2004

Site description
Sunabeda is situated in the Nuapada district of Orissa, adjoining Chhattisgarh State. The Sanctuary harbours a great diversity of wildlife habitats, with a vast plateau and canyons with 11 waterfalls. There are several riparian forests patches where species such as the Giant Squirrel Ratufa indica and the Flying Squirrel Petaurista sp. could be expected (Kotwal 1997). The Sanctuary forms the catchment area of the Jonk river, over which a dam has been constructed to facilitate irrigation. Thirtyfive families in Maragura village within the Sanctuary need to be rehabilitated (Kotwal 1997). The Indra nullah lies to the south and Son River to the west of the Sanctuary. The important vegetation of the site comprises Dry Deciduous Tropical Forest species such as Tectona grandis, Dalbergia sissoo, Boswellia serrata, Adina cordifolia, Diospyros melanoxylon, Emblica officinalis and Terminalia bellerica, as well as semi-evergreen species around the riverine belt such as Terminalia arjuna and Syzygium cumini.

Key biodiversity

AVIFAUNA: Around 200 species of birds have been reported from this area (H. K. Bisht in litt. 2002). BirdLife International (undated) has listed 59 species in Biome-11 (Indo-Malayan Tropical Dry Zone), of which 18 have been seen till now, but more are likely to occur. Except for the two Gyps vultures, which are now included in the Critically Endangered category by BirdLife International (2001) due to their steep decline during the last 10 years, none of the other species is threatened with extinction. Biome-11 includes a wide range of habitats, including forests and open country. Many of the species listed have adapted to man-modified habitats. Some species have deviated so far from their earlier distribution that they may not be useful in identifying IBAs for the protection of this biome (BirdLife International, undated).

OTHER KEY FAUNA: Sunabeda Wildlife Sanctuary has certainly seen better days. It had Swamp Deer Cervus duvauceli branderi and Wild Buffalo Bubalus bubalis (= arnee) (Kotwal 1997). Even now, typical central Indian wild mammals such as Tiger Panthera tigris, Leopard P. pardus, Gaur Bos frontalis, Sloth Bear Melursus ursinus, Barking Deer Muntiacus muntjak, Wild Boar Sus scrofa and Bluebull Boselaphus tragocamelus are found, although depleted by poaching. Among the non-human primates, Common Langur Semnopithecus entellus and Rhesus Monkey Macaca mulatta are very common.

Pressure/threats to key biodiversity
MAIN THREATS: Human pressure; Livestock grazing; Encroachment of forestland; Forest fire; Unsustainable exploitation of the forest resources; Illegal felling.

According to Kotwal (1997), the highly endangered Wild Buffalo used to occur here nearly 70 years ago. At present, they are found in Udanti Wildlife Sanctuary in Chhattisgarh, about 20 km away but there is a Patdhara Reserve Forest corridor. Efforts should be made to improve the habitat so that the Wild Buffalo can come back to Sunabeda using this corridor. This would give a boost to the protection of this Sanctuary, which is important for birds also. About 64 villages, with a human population of 20,000, fragment this Sanctuary and there is a large population of cattle. The villagers subsist on forest products to a great extent, as they have land holdings with poor yield. Grazing and encroachment of forest land for cultivation of Cannabis sativa are major threats to the Sanctuary. Graziers from other states including Rajasthan arrive here with their camels and goats, which compete with local herbivores for the grass. Though there is a proposal for a tiger reserve, there are extensive encroachments inside the sanctuary. It is doubtful if these people could be shifted (Biswajit Mohanty pers. comm. 2004). The core area of Sunabeda could be increased southwards across the Indra nullah (stream), to add 30,000 ha of forest without human habitation (Kotwal 1997).

Key contributors: P. C. Kotwal and Biswajit Mohanty.

Recommended citation
BirdLife International (2022) Important Bird Areas factsheet: Sunabeda Wildlife Sanctuary. Downloaded from on 24/05/2022.