Satkosia Gorge Wildlife Sanctuary

Year of compilation: 2004

Site description
Satkosia Gorge Sanctuary lies on either side of the River Mahanadi, in the districts of Dhenkanal, Cuttack, Puri and Phulbani. The name Satkosia refers to the 14 mile long, deep gorge formed on the Mahanadi (saat = seven, kos = 2 miles). The area can be broadly classified under woodland ecosystem, except for the freshwater aquatic ecosystem in the gorge. The Sanctuary extends over 79,525 ha, including a 32 km stretch of river bed (Choudhury, undated). The area was declared a sanctuary mainly to protect the Gharial Gavialis gangeticus and Mugger Crocodile Crocodylus palustris. This is one of the few riverine sanctuaries in India. There is a proposal to declare Satkosia Gorge WLS as a Tiger Reserve under Project Tiger. The woodland ecosystem can be classified as Northern Tropical Moist Deciduous Forest and Northern Tropical Dry Deciduous Forest. Sal Shorea robusta is the dominant tree in the former type. The canopy is irregular, with trees of unequal ages. Owing to the remote and difficult terrain, not much deforestation has occurred. The dry deciduous forest is bare and leafless in summer. The main species are Anogeissus latifolia, Terminalia tomentosa, Adina cordifolia and Albizzia lebbeck.

Key biodiversity

AVIFAUNA: Besides the two critically endangered Gyps vultures, which are widespread in any case, this site harbours two globally threatened species: Indian Skimmer Rynchops albicollis and Bristled Grass- Warbler or Grassbird Chaetornis striatus. The Indian Skimmer breeds on the islands in the Mahanadi river (B. C. Choudhury pers. comm. 2003). This site is designated as an IBA based on the presence of these two globally threatened species and also as the breeding site of the Indian Skimmer. The bird life is fairly typical of eastern India. Of the 59 species listed in Biome-11 by BirdLife International (undated), 32 are found at this site. Four species of Biome-10 (Indian Peninsula Tropical Moist Forest) are also reported i.e. Malabar Trogon Harpactes fasciatus, Malabar Pied Hornbill Anthracoceros coronatus, Indian Scimitar Babbler Pomatorhinus horsfieldii and Small Green-billed or Blue-faced Malkoha Phaenicophaeus viridirostris. These are at the northeastern extreme of their range. Ripley (1978) in his paper on the bird fauna of the Simlipal forest area in Mayurbhanj and Dhenkanal districts mentions Tytler’s Warbler Phylloscopus tytleri “in forest near the Mahanadi River in Dhenkanal District”. This interesting record extends the winter range considerably east from the River Tapti in Madhya Pradesh. It seems to have been missed by Ali and Ripley (1987) and Grimmett et al. (1998).

OTHER KEY FAUNA: Most of the representative large vertebrates of tropical dry deciduous forests of the Indian plains are found in Satkosia WLS, such as Tiger Panthera tigris, Leopard Panthera pardus, Sloth Bear Melursus ursinus, Wild Dog Cuon alpinus, Gaur Bos frontalis, Chital Axis axis, Barking Deer Muntiacus muntjak, Bluebull Boselaphus tragocamelus, Four-horned Antelope Tetracerus quadricornis, and Wild Boar Sus scrofa, as well as the Asian Elephant Elephas maximus.

Pressure/threats to key biodiversity
MAIN THREATS: Fishing; Poaching; Fragmentation of habitat by canals; Livestock grazing; Tourism; Forest fire.

There are 53 villages inside the Sanctuary and there is immense pressure due to fishing on the Mahanadi river, although it was banned on a 27-km stretch of the river to protect the Gharial. These villages inside the Sanctuary are a grave threat, since they carry out a number of unsustainable activities including goat and cattle grazing in large numbers. Most of the fertile valleys are converted into paddy fields. There is use of poison in the Mahanadi gorge inside the sanctuary (since the last two years) to catch fish which will severely impact the ecology. The Sanctuary is a haven for timber smugglers and poachers from the surrounding small towns like Narsinghpur and Angul who enter the area almost every day for timber felling and poaching. Snares and traps are regularly laid throughout the sanctuary. Hundreds of local poachers enter the forest everyday with countrymade guns. There is severe loss of habitat and the rate has accelerated in the last 5 years by heavily armed timber smugglers who have killed forest guards on many occasions. Fire is also a major problem cause of forest loss especially during summer (Biswajit Mohanty pers. comm. 2004). According to Wild Orissa, a local NGO, the elephant corridor between Satkosia Gorge Wildlife Sanctuary and Kapilas forest in Dhenkal district has been severed at many places due to canals laid under the Rengali Irrigation Project. Before constructing the canals, the government had promised that corridors would remain intact, but this premise was not kept, and nearly 100 Asian Elephants are isolated in Kapilas forest, unable to access the rich forests and water resources of Satkosia Gorge (Monalisa Bhujabal in litt. 2002).

Key contributors: Bivash Pandav, B. C. Choudhury, Biswajit Mohanty and Monalisa Bhujabal.

Recommended citation
BirdLife International (2022) Important Bird Areas factsheet: Satkosia Gorge Wildlife Sanctuary. Downloaded from on 17/05/2022.