IN357
Pakhui or Pakke Wildlife Sanctuary


Year of compilation: 2004

Site description
Pakhui Wildlife Sanctuary is bounded to the north and west by the River Bhareli (known as Kameng in Arunachal Pradesh), to the east by the River Pakke and to the south by the Nameri National Park of Assam (an IBA). Doimara Reserve Forest (RF) lies to the west of Pakhui in the Kameng distrct, while Papum RF lies to the east of the Sanctuary in East Kameng district. Both these Reserve Forests cover c. 128,900 ha (Datta 1998a). Pakhui has been recently declared as Tiger Reserve under Project Tiger. Pakhui is criss-crossed by a number of small rivers and perennial tributaries of Bhareli and Pakke rivers, both of which join the Brahmaputra river. The area lies in the foothills of the Himalaya and the terrain is undulating and hilly. A large portion of the northern and central part of the Sanctuary is inaccessible due to dense vegetation, hilly terrain and lack of trails or paths. The forest types include: Tropical Semi-evergreen on the lower plains and foothills, patches of Tropical Evergreen and Subtropical Broadleaf Forests on the hilltops and higher reaches. Moist areas near streams have a profuse growth of bamboo, cane brakes and palms. Patches of tall grassland and shingle beds occur along the larger perennial streams, which give way to lowland moist forests (Datta 1998a).

Key biodiversity

AVIFAUNA: Singh (1991, 1994), Datta et al. (1998) and Pawar and Birand (2001) have together recorded 296 bird species from the area. At least 45-50 species of major frugivorous and granivorous birds occur here. The major frugivorous and granivorous birds include 8 species of bulbuls (Pycnonotus), 5 species of mynas (Acridotheres), 4 species of green pigeons (Treron) and Mountain Imperial-pigeon Ducula badia, 4 species of doves (Streptopelia, Macropygia and Chalcophaps), 4 barbet species (Megalaima), and 3 parakeet species (Psittacula and Loriculus). In addition, broadbills, cuckoos, the Red-headed Trogon (Harpactes erythrocephalus), two leafbird (Chloropsis) species, Fairy Bluebird (Irena puella), 2 oriole Oriolus species and 4 flowerpecker Dicaeum species were also recorded.

There are at least 4 globally threatened species such as the Rufous-necked Hornbill Aceros nipalensis, White-winged duck Cairina scutulata, Pallas’s Fish-Eagle Haliaeetus leucoryphus and Marsh Babbler Pellorneum palustre. The uncommon Oriental Bay-Owl Phodilus badius, a first record from western Arunachal Pradesh, has also been recorded in the area recently (Datta et. al. 2001; A. Datta, pers. comm. 2003).

Several roost sites of hornbills, where up to 150 Wreathed Hornbills Aceros undulatus and about 100 Great Hornbills Buceros bicornis roosted at the same location, were recorded in recent studies (Datta et al. 1998). Among the three species of hornbills, the Great Hornbill is the most abundant, followed by the Wreathed and Oriental Pied (Datta 1998a). Great and Wreathed hornbills were recorded in all habitats, while Oriental Pied was recorded only in semi-disturbed forests and plantations.

Datta (2000) has studied the relative abundance of pheasant species (Gallus gallus, Lophura leucomelanos lathami and Polyplectron bicalcaratum) in unlogged and logged forests of Pakhui WLS. She found that overall pheasant abundance was highest in unlogged forest and low in other strata. No pheasant was sighted in the plantation, further proving the importance of maintaining undisturbed forest tracts for biodiversity conservation.

Pakhui has rich assemblages of biome species. Thirteen species of woodpeckers, 8 species of bulbuls, 9 species of doves and pigeons and several other groups of birds are common (Datta et al. 1998). The Family Muscicapidae, for which the Northeast is famous, is represented by 72 species!

This IBA is particularly good for raptors. Of the 66 species reported from the Indian subcontinent, Pakhui has 17, including rarities such as the Pallas’s Fish-Eagle.

Due to its altitudinal variation from 100 m to 2,000 m, Pakhui has bird species ranging from Ibisbill Ibidorhyncha struthersii and Tickell's Warbler Phylloscopus affinis of Biome-5 (Eurasian High Montane Forest) to Grey Peacock Pheasant Polyplectron bicalcaratum, Pale-headed Woodpecker Gecinulus grantia and Black-backed Forktail Enicurus immaculatus of Biome-7 (Indo-Chinese Tropical Moist Forest). Ibisbill has been sighted on Khari nallha (stream) and Bhareli river (Datta et al. 1998).

Rarely seen, but supposedly widespread, the Green Cochoa Cochoa viridis is found in Pakhui but Datta et al. (1998) saw it only once. Elwes’s or Black-tailed Crake Porzana bicolor, a seldom seen crake of the Himalaya and northeast India, was seen in a forest pool called Pukhri, situated on top of a plateau.

This IBA is included in the Eastern Himalayas Endemic Bird Area (Stattersfield et al. 1998). Of the 21 Restricted Range species recorded for India in this EBA, seven have been seen to date.

Choudhury (1995) has reported White-winged Duck Cairina scutulata from this IBA, but it is present in much greater numbers in the adjoining Nameri National Park in Assam (Choudhury 2002).

OTHER KEY FAUNA: This IBA is extremely rich in mammals, reptiles, amphibians and insects. Besides a good number of Asian Elephant Elephas maximus, Tiger Panthera tigris and Leopard P. pardus, there is also evidence of presence of Clouded Leopard Neofelis nebulosa in the area (Datta 1998b). The Golden Cat Catopuma temmincki and Leopard Cat Prionailurus bengalensis are also reported from this IBA. Datta (1999) has recorded about 10 species of smaller carnivores from Pakhui.

Pakhui WLS appears to support a highly diverse turtle population (Datta 1998c). The Assam Roofed Turtle Kachuga sylhetensis, restricted to the evergreen forest tracts of northeast India, was found in Khari nullah by Datta (1998c), the first record of this rare species from Arunachal Pradesh. Keeled Box Turtle Pyxedia mouhotii is also found here (Pawar and Birand 2001).

This site has very diverse species of amphibians (28 species) and reptiles (48 species) (Pawar and Birand 2001). Some of the interesting species are North-western Trickle Frog Occidozyga borealis and Daniel’s Oriental Streamfrog Rana danieli.

Pressure/threats to key biodiversity
MAIN THREATS: Poaching; Illegal tree felling; Developmental project.

East Kameng is among the most thinly populated districts of Arunachal Pradesh. Thirteen to fifteen villages and small settlements are located near the southeastern boundary of the Park, adjacent to the Pakke River, with an adult population of about 4,000 (mostly belonging to the Nishi tribal community, 1997-1998 census). The tribals are mostly involved in settled agriculture. The villagers engage in fishing, hunting, cane and bamboo pole cutting, collection of honey and resin (dhuna) from the forest. Selective logging on a commercial scale occurred in the Reserve Forests till 1996. Prior to the Supreme Court ban on logging, timber felling was the main source of income for some people in the village. Two mills operated here. There was some illegal felling within the Park earlier, especially near the southeastern boundary. Sustainable activities and innovative schemes that provide livelihood for local people such as poultry, handicraft development, bee-keeping, orchid cultivation, plantations of cane, bamboo and the Tokko Palm Livistona jenkinsiana are important for local needs. In fact, in the Reserve Forest, cane and the Tokko Palm are disappearing due to frequent cutting. To reduce the dependency of the tribals on the forest, growing and planting of cane, bamboo and Tokko Palm around their villages or even in degraded land in the reserve forests should be encouraged.

Villagers from Assam often enter the forests to collect cane that is sold in local markets for making furniture and decorative cane products in nearby Tezpur. Fishing in the rivers and streams is a major source of disturbance, especially by villagers from Assam who camp for several days and often poison an entire stretch of river. Dynamiting is also carried out sometimes. The biggest threat in recent years has been the increasing encroachment and almost total clear felling of adjoining reserve forests in Assam near the state boundary adjoining Pakke TR by Bodo settlers. The Bodos have cleared forests for new settlements and settled agriculture in prime foothill forest areas. Over 100 sq. km of forest has disappeared since 1995 in Diplonga, Naduar RF and Balipara RF. These settlers also enter Nameri NP to cut firewood and timber and encroach into the edges of Papum RF on the Arunachal side.

Hunting by the local tribal community, the Nishis, is mainly for subsistence and local consumption, although sometimes animals are hunted to supplement their cash income. Large-scale hunting for commercial purposes is not such a big threat, although incidental hunting of otters, bears and other lucrative wildlife species occurs. The local community mostly views the Forest Department and the presence of the Park with resentment as they feel dispossessed and excluded from what they have seen as their land. There are few employment opportunities and the few that exist with government departments are minimal and considered unattractive due to poor wages. The settled agriculturists also face problems from crop-raiding elephants. However, in recent years (January 2000- March 2002), the local Nishi community has become more responsive to conservation activities, thanks to the efforts of the forest department and conservation organizations. Many of them, who were active hunters, are now involved in the conservation of hornbills. Earlier there was a taboo on hunting hornbills only in the breeding season, but now a total ban on hornbill hunting is observed. The tribals have formed four village councils to ensure reduction in hunting activities in general. The council members apprehend and fine people who go hunting, fishing or collecting forest produce. However, hunting still remains a threat, because of the traditional value and increasing rarity of these birds in other areas of Arunachal. The interest and conservation commitment shown by the Nishis needs to be sustained through more incentives, income-generation opportunities tied to wildlife conservation in the area such as employment as nature guides, eco-tourism etc. and conservation education programmes. This would increase awareness among villagers about wildlife conservation and generate pride and enthusiasm among them.

Compared to other IBAs, Pakhui is relatively undisturbed due to its inaccessibility, difficult terrain and lack of roads. The sole village, Mabusa, to the south of the Sanctuary has been relocated (Datta et al. 1998). A few settlements are present near the northern boundary. The Bhareli river acts as a barrier to human pressure, though occasionally the tribals cross over for hunting.

Datta (1998a) has shown that many species of hornbills can survive in semi-disturbed forests and plantations. Hornbills are adapted to exploit food resources that are rare and widely dispersed, and hence most species range over large areas of forest (John 1983). Logged forests cover larger areas than primary forests, and therefore should be included in conservation strategies (John 1987).

Cane extraction on a commercial basis occurred in Pakhui till 1991, but now it has been stopped. Minor forest products are still extracted by some tribals from the fringes but they are not of much concern as the extraction is still at a low, sustainable level.

A small part of the forest near the southern boundary had also undergone some felling in the past, before the area was declared a sanctuary in 1978 (Datta et al. 1998).

Construction of a power house as part of the Kameng hydroelectrical project on the boundary of the Sanctuary will disturb the tranquility and anthropogenic pressure from the labour during the construction period will affect the habitat and wildlife of the Sanctuary near the construction site (Choudhury and Menon 2003).

This large Sanctuary is grossly under-staffed. The Forest Department lacks funds and infrastructure and logistics are inadequate, and therefore, the motivation among the staff is low. Frontline staff needs training and exposure to census methodologies.

Acknowledgements
Key contributors: A. Datta, A. Birand and S. Pawar.


Recommended citation
BirdLife International (2022) Important Bird Areas factsheet: Pakhui or Pakke Wildlife Sanctuary. Downloaded from http://www.birdlife.org on 07/12/2022.