Year of compilation: 2004
AVIFAUNA: The bird life is very rich in Mahananda as the Park is at the crossroads of two biomes i.e. Sino-Himalayan Subtropical Forest and Indo-Chinese Tropical Moist Forests, with a small portion of Indo-Gangetic Plain. The higher reaches of the Park harbour elements of Sino-Himalayan Temperate Forest. The checklist prepared by Lobo (2003) has 316 species while in the Calcutta Gazetteer, (Anon. undated), 300 birds have been listed. The site lies in the Eastern Himalayas Endemic Bird Area (EBA 130) in which Stattersfield et al. (1998) have listed 21 species found in India. Only one has been located in this site, Rusty-bellied Shortwing Brachypteryx hyperythra, a bird of forest undergrowth and thickets (Grimmett et al. 1998). Interestingly, another rare and endemic bird found here is the Black-breasted Parrotbill Paradoxornis flavirostris, belonging to Assam Plains Endemic Bird Area (EBA 131) where only three species are considered restricted range, and Parrotbill is one of them. This bird is confined to tall, wet grasslands and reedbeds. There are unconfirmed reports of occurrence of Bengal Florican Houbaropsis bengalensis in the grasslands on the riverbanks. During surveys in the 1980s by Rahmani et al. (1990), this bustard was not located in Mahananda. There is a grassland called Ghoramora and on the River Teesta, about 1 km from Ghoramora there are some big grass-covered islands which could have some floricans. Another globally threatened species occurring here is the Rufousnecked Hornbill Aceros nipalensis. It is also reported in two more IBAs in West Bengal, Buxa and Lava-Neora. Mahananda WLS also has five Near Threatened species. Two biomes occur in Mahananda: Biome-8 (Sino Himalayan Subtropical Forest) from c. 1,000 to 1,800 m, and Biome-9 (Indo- Chinese Tropical Moist Forests) found below 1,000 m. BirdLife International (undated) has listed 95 species in Biome-8 that occur in India, out of which 20 species are found in this IBA. Similarly, many species of Biome-9 are also found. In winter, many birds of Biome-5 (Eurasian High Montane-Alpine and Tibetan) are seen here when they come down to escape winter. One of the most interesting species is Ibisbill Ibidorhyncha struthersii. Himalayan Griffon Gyps himalayensis is also seen sometimes, especially in the higher reaches of Mahananda.
OTHER KEY FAUNA: Besides the Asian Elephant Elephas maximus, Mahananda has its usual complements of large mammals such as the Tiger Panthera tigris, and Leopard P. pardus. Serow Nemorhaedus sumatraensis is present in Chawa, Andhera and Upper Ghoramara forest blocks, where occasionally Asiatic Black Bear Ursus thibetanus is sighted.
In the Moist Deciduous Forest on lower reaches, Gaur Bos frontalis is quite common, especially in Sevoke and Laltong blocks. Chital or Spotted Deer Axis axis, otherwise uncommon in north West Bengal, are common in Sevoke block and plantation areas, while Sambar Cervus unicolor is more widespread and found in all parts of the Sanctuary. A species worth mentioning is the Clouded Leopard Neofelis nebulosa, a feline seldom seen but likely to be present in this area as the habitat is suitable. Among the primates, five Hoolock Gibbon Hylobates hoolock were introduced in 1965, but they died out (Anon. undated).
Charaching is a serious problem, mainly due to the fact that the Sanctuary is easily accessible in the southern part. National Highway-31 passes through the Sanctuary, and there are numerous villages. Timber smuggling to provide raw material to numerous saw mills in nearby Siliguri town is another problem which the authorities face all the time. Grazing, a persistent problem of all sanctuaries in India, is quite severe here also. A large number of cows can be seen on the roads going towards the Sanctuary. During summer, villagers set fires to promote fresh growth of grass. This coincides with the breeding season of many ground-nesting birds (pheasants, quails, francolins, larks) and does obvious damage. There is a plan to widen the National Highway into an eight lane road. The Indian Railway plans to convert the existing metre-gauge track between Siliguri and Guwahati to broad-gauge, and also increase the frequency of trains. This would also affect the Sanctuary adversely.
BirdLife International (2023) Important Bird Areas factsheet: Mahananda Wildlife Sanctuary. Downloaded from http://www.birdlife.org on 09/02/2023.