Innerline, Katakal and Barak Reserve Forests

Year of compilation: 2004

Site description
This site covers parts of Cachar and Hailakandi districts in southern Assam, bordering Mizoram and Manipur. The Innerline Reserve Forest (RF) is the largest RF in Assam, with an area of more than 110,000 ha. Katakhal and Barak RFs are contiguous with Innerline. The area is mainly composed of low hills that are the northern promontories of the Lushai or Mizo Hills. Small patches of plain area found between the hills are mostly under human habitation. Dhaleswari, Barak and Sonai are the main rivers. These reserve forests, along with some other adjacent reserve forests, were proposed as Dhaleswari Wildlife Sanctuary in the early 1980s. The area has a rich diversity of mammals and birds (Choudhury 1983). Part of Katakhal RF has been ornithologically surveyed as far back as the 19th century (Inglis 1896-1910). The forests are mainly Tropical Wet Evergreen and Tropical Semievergreen. The two characteristic tree species of the area are Dipterocarpus turbinatus and Palaquium polyanthum. There are vast and continuous stretches of bamboo with cane and reeds. There are some small but excellent patches of tropical rain forest on the plains in the Innerline RF.

Key biodiversity

AVIFAUNA: So far, about 250 species have been listed, including many endangered ones (A. U. Choudhury pers. comm. 2003). The Whitewinged Duck Cairina scutulata is still sporadically recorded, but there is no recent report of the Masked Finfoot Heliopais personata. There are specimens of this elusive bird in American Museums, collected from the northern edge of Innerline RF (BirdLife International 2001). The Spot-billed Pelican Pelecanus philippensis was also recorded from the fringe of Katakhal RF, but there is no recent report. The Swamp Francolin Francolinus gularis has perhaps vanished from the area due to encroachment on its grassland habitat for cultivation, while the last confirmed record of the Green Peafowl Pavo muticus in Assam was from Barak RF (Choudhury 2000). The site lies in Biome-9 (Indo-Chinese Tropical Moist Forest). Some of the major species of the biome that are seen here are Lesser Necklaced Laughingthrush Garrulax monileger, Blackgorgeted Laughingthrush G. pectoralis, and Rufous-necked Laughingthrush G. ruficollis. During winter, many birds of other biomes such as Biome-7 (Sino- Himalayan Temperate Forest) and Biome-8 (Sino-Himalayan Subtropical Forest) move in. Notable forest birds are Grey-bellied Tesia T. cyaniventer, Blyth’s Kingfisher Alcedo hercules, Bluethroated Barbet Megalaima asiatica, Bay Woodpecker Blythipicus pyrrhotis, Maroon Oriole Oriolus traillii, Black-naped Oriole O. tenuirostris, Grey Treepie Dendrocitta formosae, Black-winged Cuckoo Shrike Coracina melaschistos, Short-billed Minivet Pericrocotus brevirostris, White-throated Bulbul Alophoixus flaveolus, Black Bulbul Hypsipetes leucocephalus and Grey Peacock Pheasant Polyplectron bicalcaratum.

OTHER KEY FAUNA: This IBA site has the highest primate diversity in Assam with eight species (Choudhury 1989). They are the Slow Loris Nycticebus coucang, Rhesus Macaque Macaca mulatta, Pig-tailed Macaque M. nemestrina, Stump-tailed Macaque Macaca arctoides, Assamese Macaque M. assamensis, Capped Langur Trachypithecus pileatus, Phayre’s Leaf Monkey T. phayrei and Hoolock Gibbon Hylobates hoolock. Other fauna includes Elephant Elephas maximus, Sloth Bear Melursus ursinus, Malayan Sun Bear Helarctos malayanus, Tiger Panthera tigris, Leopard P. pardus, Clouded Leopard Neofelis nebulosa, Sambar Cervus unicolor, Hog Deer Axis porcinus, Barking Deer Muntiacus muntjak, Serow Nemorhaedus sumatraensis and Gaur Bos frontalis. The Gangetic dolphin Plantanista gangetica occurs in Barak River and during monsoon in Dhaleswari and Katakhal rivers also. There are historic records of the Sumatran Rhinoceros Dicerorhinus sumatrensis and Wild Water Buffalo Bubalus arnee (= bubalis) (Choudhury 1997, 2001). Among reptiles, there were innumerable past records of the Gharial Gavialis gangeticus.

Turtles recorded include the Keeled Box Turtle Pyxidea mouhotii and Eastern Hill or Asian Brown Tortoise Manouria emys. Both Indian Rock and Reticulated pythons (Python molurus and P. reticulatus) have been recorded here, besides the King Cobra Ophiophagus hannah and other snakes.

Pressure/threats to key biodiversity
MAIN THREATS: Encroachment; Deforestation; Unsustainable Bamboo harvesting.

The site is under heavy biotic pressure, including encroachment, felling of trees, large-scale and unscientific harvesting of bamboo for paper mills. Charaching, often across the Mizoram border, is also a major issue. This site has tropical rainforest, identified as Cachar Type by Champion and Seth (1968). This forms one of the largest surviving contiguous belts of reserved forests in the state (Choudhury 1993). This area has been strongly recommended as a national park (Choudhury 1989) or a sanctuary (Choudhury 1993). These forests are still unprotected despite being extremely rich in biological wealth. In 1983, a memorandum was submitted to the Government of Assam to declare it as a wildlife sanctuary, but not much has happened during the last 20 years. The proposed sanctuary or a national park would cover Innerline RF (whole), Katakal RF (whole), Barak RF (whole), Dohaila RF (part), Longai RF (part) and Tilbhum RF (part). In addition to the reserved forests, a small portion of unclassified state forest areas, north of Shingla RF and the adjoining areas of the Innerline RF should also be included. The estimated area of the reserve or a sanctuary would be about 167,000 ha, with provision for future expansion (Choudhury 1993). Since this plan was submitted, lot of encroachment has taken place in about 60,000 ha. In order to prevent further encroachment, it is absolutely essential that the remaining forest be legally protected soon.

Key contributor: Anwaruddin Choudhury.

Recommended citation
BirdLife International (2022) Important Bird Areas factsheet: Innerline, Katakal and Barak Reserve Forests. Downloaded from on 19/08/2022.