Laokhowa and Burhachapori Sanctuaries

Site description (2004 baseline):

Site location and context
Laokhowa Wildlife Sanctuary (7,011 ha) is located in Nagaon district in central Assam. It was declared as a game reserve way back in 1907 because of its population of Indian One-horned Rhinoceros Rhinoceros unicornis. Burhachapori Wildlife Sanctuary (4,406 ha) is contiguous with Laokhowa, and is located on the south bank of the Brahmaputra west of the Kolia Bhomara Bridge near Tezpur. This Sanctuary, however, is in Sonitpur district. During summer, Burhachapori virtually becomes an island. Both Laokhowa and Burhachapori are on the floodplains of the Brahmaputra river. In Burhachapori, about 20% is forest, 65% grasslands and the rest waterbodies and scrub forest. Laokhowa is similar to Kaziranga in terrain and situated further downstream on the southern bank of the Brahmaputra. Roughly 35% of Laokhowa is grassland, 30% waterbodies and the remaining area under natural forest or plantations of Bombax ceiba, Dalbergia sissoo and Albizzia procera. Marasuti, a tributary of the Brahmaputra flows along the northwestern part of the Sanctuary (Bhagabati and Lahkar 1998, Choudhury 1998). The natural vegetation is mainly forest interspersed with tall trees, grasslands and wetland vegetation. The forests are primarily of Tropical Moist Deciduous, with patches of Semi-evergreen types. The understorey is found to vary from one forest patch to another, depending upon the character of the dominant trees. In some patches, it is dominated by Pteridophytes, and in others by species of Eupatorium, Mikania and Ageratum. Climbers and herbs like Hydrocotyle and Colocasia are present. Some epiphytic ferns, namely Asplenium and Pyrrosia can be seen. The dominant trees include Albizzia procera, Acacia catechu, Barringtonia acutangula, Dalbergia sisoo and Bombax ceiba. Grasses grow in the relatively dry areas (Bhagabati and Lahkar 1998).

Key biodiversity

AVIFAUNA: About 200 bird species have been recorded in the site (Lahkar 2003). Rahmani et al. (1990) during their surveys in late 1980s did not find any Bengal Florican in Laokhowa and Burhachapori areas due to disturbance at that time. However, subsequently, Talukdar (1995), Goswami et al. (1999) and Choudhury (2002) found that florican sighting has become frequent, due to improvement of the habitat. In 1998, an injured male florican was rescued by the Forest Department. If the grasslands are properly protected, this IBA could become a major habitat for this highly endangered species. This IBA site is also important for about 16 threatened and Near Threatened species.

OTHER KEY FAUNA: The Laokhowa-Burhachapori IBA continues to be one of the important habitats of Indian One-horned Rhinoceros, a globally endangered animal. Laokhowa had about 60 rhinos before they were killed in the 1970s and finally exterminated during political upheaval in the 1980s. Even now, rhinos appear occasionally after the rains, but they become victims of poachers. Nevertheless, the situation can be improved with strict management, and rhinos can be reintroduced as the habitat is still suitable. Elephants Elephas maximus are still found, resulting in human-animal conflict, as a very large number of villages surround the forests and grasslands.

Wild Water Buffalo Bubalus arnee (= bubalis) is also seen, but they suffer from interbreeding with domestic buffalo. Tiger Panthera tigris, Hog Deer Axis porcinus, Wild Boar Sus scrofa, Porcupine Hystrix brachyura, Large Indian Civet Viverra zibetha, Indian Grey Mongoose Herpestes edwardsii, Jungle Cat Felis chaus, Common Otter Lutra lutra, Clawless Otter Amblonyx cinereus and Golden Jackal Canis aureus are some other mammals of this IBA (Bhagabati and Lahkar 1998, Choudhury 1998).

Pressure/threats to key biodiversity
MAIN THREATS: Livestock grazing; Illegal fishing; Firewood collection and felling of trees; Thatch grass collection; Disturbance to birds; Encroachment; Siltation of wetlands.

There are eight forest villages, seven inside the Sanctuary, one just at the boundary, and several tribal settlements. In all, 10-15 thousand people belonging to Bodo and Lalung tribes stay inside the Sanctuary. Moreover, immigrants from erstwhile Eastern Bengal have settled all around the Sanctuary. Although Laokhowa was declared as a wildlife sanctuary in 1979, it was brought under the administration of the wildlife division only in June, 1987. Commercial fishing and grass cutting rights have been suspended, but the Sanctuary still provides fish, thatch grass, fodder and fuel to at least 15,000 people, most of them from the eight tribal villages within the Sanctuary. Additionally, hundreds of people and thousands of cattle from the villages, and buffaloes from Khutis (buffalo camps) still use it everyday (Rahmani et al. 1990). This site has great potential to become an excellent habitat for the fauna of Brahmaputra floodplain grasslands, much like the famous Kaziranga National Park (IBA). The only step required is to follow the Wildlife Protection Act, under which these two sanctuaries were declared. There is an urgent needs to clear all encroachments and stop illegal activities.

Key contributors: Kulojyoti Lahkar, Anwaruddin Choudhury, Asad R. Rahmani, Goutam Narayan, Abani Kr. Bhagavati and Shimanta Kumar Goswami.

Recommended citation
BirdLife International (2024) Important Bird Area factsheet: Laokhowa and Burhachapori Sanctuaries. Downloaded from on 21/02/2024.