IN320
Jaldapara Wildlife Sanctuary


Year of compilation: 2004

Site description
Jaldapara Wildlife Sanctuary is located in the flood plains of the River Torsa and other small rivers. It has large tracts of grasslands sustaining a small population of the One-horned rhinoceros Rhinoceros unicornis. The lofty snow clad ranges of the Himalaya loom in the background. A number of rivulets, the Torsa, Hollong, Chirakhawa, Kalijhora, Sissamora, Sanjoy and Bhaluka traverse the Sanctuary. The great diversity of vegetation and the network of rivers and rivulets have made this Sanctuary home to a rich variety of avifauna. The savanna and grassland of the Sanctuary supports tall grasses like Themada arundinacea, Saccharum narenga, S. arundinaceum, S. spontaneum, S. bengalense, Heteropogon contortus, Imperata cylindrica and Arundo donax. The forest on the western side consists of Dalbergia sissoo, Albizzia lebbek, Acacia catechu, Bombax ceiba and the eastern side is dominated by Sal forest Shorea robusta. The Sanctuary consists mainly of riverine forests, with grasslands or savanna, maintained by burning of grasslands periodically by the forest officials. About 20-30% of the Sanctuary bears tall grasses (Narayan et al. 1989).

Key biodiversity

AVIFAUNA: Jaldapara is one of the best areas in northern West Bengal where the tall, wet grassland of the Indo-Gangetic plains is still seen, thanks to the protection of this habitat for the sake of the Onehorned Rhinoceros. Despite the fact that Jaldapara is very popular among visitors, tourists and wildlifers, a systematic bird checklist is not available. According to the records of the Forest Department, 240 species of birds are known to occur here (Kumar 1998), but many species need confirmation. Kumar (1998) during his short trip saw 53 species from elephant back in the vicinity of Hollong Lodge, banks of Hollong river and the Peacock Avenue. According to Ali et al. (1985) Jaldapara was the last known locality for the Bengal florican Houbaropsis bengalensis in West Bengal. Narayan et al. (1989) estimated a population of up to 10 individuals in Jaldapara in the late 1980s. K. Mookherjee (in litt. 2001) has reported Black-breasted Parrotbill Paradoxornis flavirostris and Yellow Weaver or Finn’s Weaver Pleceus megarhyncha, two globally threatened birds. The presence of Parrotbill is perhaps the best indication that tall, dense terai grassland is still surviving. Yellow Weaver is also restricted to terai grasslands but the more open types, with tall trees for nesting (Ali and Ripley 1987). Greater Adjutant Leptoptilos dubius, once fairly common in Jaldapara and all over West Bengal has drastically decreased and none has been sighted here for many years. This site is selected on the basis of the presence of a small population of the Bengal Florican, and tall wet grassland habitat that could be having viable populations of many grasslanddependent species. As the Sanctuary is well protected, despite being surrounded by dense human population, there are long-term chances of survival of many grassland birds.

OTHER KEY FAUNA: Jaldapara is an important refuge for the One-horned Rhinoceros, whose present population stands at about 80. Earlier, its numbers appeared to have dwindled from an estimated 72 in 1964 (Spillett 1967) to 22 in 1980 (Chowdhuary and Ghosh 1984). Now the population is back to 75-80 animals, thanks to control on poaching.

Apart from this, a good population of Gaur Bos frontalis, a few Sloth Bears Melursus ursinus and good numbers of Wild Boar Sus scrofa, Indian Muntjak or Barking Deer Muntiacus muntjak, Hog Deer Axis porcinus and Sambar Cervus unicolor are also present here. Leopard Panthera pardus and Asian Elephant Elephas maximus are very common, and sometimes one can see huge herds wandering in the Sanctuary. A small resident population of elephants is also seen throughout the year.

Recently, a small remnant population of Hispid Hare Caprolagus hispidus has been found by a BNHS scientist within Jaldapara Wildlife Sanctuary. It is the only population of this highly endangered species in the whole of north Bengal and the estimated number is around 30 (Maheswaran 2002). The whole Sanctuary, especially the tall grasslands, should be protected to save grasslanddependent species like the Bengal Florican and the Hispid hare.

Pressure/threats to key biodiversity
MAIN THREATS: Grazing; Fuel wood collection.

The Sanctuary is uninhabited, but the adjacent lands are occupied by villages with dense human population (Seshadri 1986). The Sanctuary is famous for One-horned Rhinos and thus all the management activities are oriented towards Rhino conservation. Good management of tall grasslands not only benefits Rhinos but also the dependent species like the Bengal Florican and the Hispid Hare, besides Hog Deer and Swamp Deer. Jaldapara was included in a status survey of the Bengal Florican in 1985 (Ali et al. 1985) and subsequently in 1988 and 1989 (Narayan et al. 1989). Jaldapura, and the nearby Buxa Tiger Reserve, are together one of the most important areas in northeastern India, providing a refuge for potentially viable populations of several threatened species (Tiger, Elephant, Rhinoceros, Swamp Deer, Gaur, as well as certain lesser cats, Hispid Hare and Bengal Florican) and critical as a corridor for the wildlife moving between Bhutan and Assam (Rodgers and Panwar 1988). It was proposed that the Sanctuary be extended to 37,300 ha and a core area of 10,000 ha be upgraded to National Park status (Rodgers and Panwar 1988). The Sanctuary has always been under threat from the high densities of villages occupying the surrounding areas. Illegal grazing by domestic livestock continues to be a major problem, besides unchecked movements of villagers who venture into the Sanctuary to collect fuel wood and thatch grass for roofing. Consequently, these resources have been largely depleted from the surrounding area (Spillett 1967, Chowdhuary and Ghosh 1984, Seshadri 1986).

Acknowledgements
Key contributor: G. Maheswaran.


Recommended citation
BirdLife International (2022) Important Bird Areas factsheet: Jaldapara Wildlife Sanctuary. Downloaded from http://www.birdlife.org on 05/12/2022.