Mandla-Phudung, Shergaon and Kalaktang are some of the least explored tracts in Arunachal Pradesh. This region of high biodiversity is a global biodiversity hotspot (Myers 1988) as well as on Eastern Himalayan Endemic Bird Area (Stattersfield et al. 1998). Mandla-Phudung,Shergaon and Kalaktang can be treated as a unit comprising three separate but contiguous areas in West Kameng district. None of these areas are protected or even reserved forests, hence there is no well defined boundary. The forests of Shergaon are contiguous with those of Eaglenest Wildlife Sanctuary (an IBA), while Sangti Valley, another IBA, lies north of Mandla-Phudung. This IBA mainly consists of mountainous country. The lowest parts in this montane area are about 1,000 m (near Kalaktang) while the highest parts are above 3,000 m (in Mandla-Phudung area) above msl. This IBA covers part of Middle and Lesser Himalaya and some parts of the Great Himalaya. There are a number of small to medium-sized natural lakes in the higher reaches of Mandla-Phudung, ranging from tiny pools to waterspreads of more than 50 ha. These lakes are located at elevations above 3,000 m. Annual rainfall varies from less than 1,500 mm on the northern slopes (partly rain-shadow zone) to more than 2,000 mm on the southern slopes which receive heavy rainfall. The temperature generally ranges from 0 ?C in winter (minimum) to 30 ?C in summer (maximum). Breathing is difficult above 3,050 m due to low percentage of oxygen. Heavy snowfall is experienced in winter in the higher reaches (especially above 2,200 m, occasionally down to 1,800 m). The vegetation of this IBA includes Tropical Wet Evergreen Forest which occurs only in the lower areas near Kalaktang. Subtropical Forest is widespread, with both broadleaf as well as coniferous species. Broadleaf Forests occurs generally between 1,800 and 2,800 m while the coniferous forests between 2,800 and 3,500 m. Various species of oaks, magnolias and rhododendrons dominate the broadleaf forests. Three species of pines dominate the Subtropical Pine Forests, namely Pinus roxburghii, P. wallichiana and P. kesiya (mostly planted).
AVIFAUNA: A bird survey of this little known wilderness was carried out in April end, May and October 2000 as part of the IBA project (Choudhury 2001). Prior to that, these areas were also visited in 1997, 1998 and 1999. This is the first ever detailed survey of the area. Some information on the birds of this region is found in Choudhury (2000) and Singh (1995).
More than 300 species of birds have so far been recorded in the area. Many species could not be authentically identified due to poor visibility in dense forest. Furthermore, many commoner species likely to occur may have been missed.
Choudhury (2001) has noted six species of pheasants, including the globally threatened Blyth’s Tragopan Tragopan blythii, and the Near Threatened Satyr Tragopan Tragopan satyra. Blyth’s Tragopan was reported from Shergaon and hilltops near Moshing. Satyr Tragopan was uncommon but present all over the high elevation areas of Temperate Broadleaf and Coniferous Forests, especially above 2,000 m. It was the most abundant among the three tragopan species seen in this area.
The Blood Pheasant Ithaginis cruentus, is not uncommon, and regularly snared by poachers above 3,000 m. Mandla-Phudung is perhaps a new locality for this species (Choudhury 2001). Temminck’s Tragopan Tragopan temminckii, was earlier recorded up to Subansiri area of this state (its westernmost limit, around 93º 10' E). Its presence in Mandla-Phudung area at an elevation of 3,000 m extends its western most location in India (27º 18' N, 92º 06' E).
Ward’s Trogon Harpactes wardi, is another Near Threatened species reported from this IBA. Choudhury (2001) had only two sightings, just outside this IBA, but he found that near Tenzinggang, Madhla-Phudung and between Shergaon and Morshing there were good potential habitats.
The Rufous-necked Hornbill Aceros nipalensis, a globally threatened species, occurs in this IBA but in low numbers. Above 1,500 m, this is the main hornbill species in Subtropical Broadleaf Forests with mature trees. But, it also occurs in Tropical Evergreen and Temperate Broadleaf forests. It was reported from Tenzinggang and Shergaon areas.
As Choudhury (2001) and others have conducted detailed surveys in this and surrounding areas, many interesting records are available. Choudhury (2001) observed a party of more than 4 individuals of Brown-cheeked Laughingthrush Garrulax henrici, earlier known as Prince Henri’s Laughingthrush, near Tenzinggang at an elevation of 2,200 m on October 8, 2000. This is the second record from India, the first being from northern Arunachal Pradesh (Grimmett et al. 1998). This species typically belongs to Tibet and Southeast China. Dickinson (2003) has recognized two subspecies. It is not known which subspecies was seen in Arunachal Pradesh.
Another interesting record is that of the Crow-billed Drongo Dicrurus annectans between Shergaon and Eaglenest Wildlife Sanctuary, at about 2,200 m. This is a new elevation record as the bird was earlier reported to be found only up to 700 m and 1,450 m (Grimmett et al. 1998).
Hoary-throated Barwing Actinodura nipalensis and Austen’s or Streak-throated Barwing Actinodura waldeni are considered as Restricted Range species to the Eastern Himalayas Endemic Bird Area (EBA) (Stattersfield et al. 1998). Both species were seen by Choudhury (2001) in this IBA. Similarly, White-naped Yuhina Yuhina bakeri, another Restricted Range species was also recorded. Beautiful Sibia Heterophasia pulchella, also a Restricted Range species of this EBA is a common resident with some seasonal altitudinal movement. It is found in Temperate Coniferous and Broadleaf Forest.
Rusty-bellied Shortwing Brachypteryx hyperythra, endemic to the Eastern Himalaya, with one record each from southern China and northern Myanmar (BirdLife International, 2001) was observed only once outside this IBA in October 2000 (Choudhury 2001).
This site qualifies as an IBA as it has 5 globally threatened species, some with significant populations, and 9 out of 21 Restricted Range species of the Eastern Himalaya.
OTHER KEY FAUNA: A small population of Asian Elephant Elephas maximus moves up to Shergaon in summer. During winter, they come down to the foothills and plains to avoid snowfall in Piri-la. The Tiger Panthera tigris has become extremely rare because of past poisoning for cattle depredation. Other felines reported in the area include the Leopard P. pardus, Clouded Leopard Neofelis nebulosa and Leopard Cat Prionailurus bengalensis (apparently common as many skins were seen at Shergaon). Other major carnivores recorded in the area are the Dhole or Wild Dog Cuon alpinus and Asiatic Black Bear Ursus thibetanus. The latter is persecuted for its bile and gall bladder. Once a bear is shot, traders from Bhutan take away the biles (gall baldder) and other parts. The meat is oftenconsumedlocally.TheRedPanda Ailurus fulgens occurs all over, above 2,000 m elevation (Choudhury 2001).
Among primates, the Assamese Macaque Macaca assamensis, and Capped Langur Trachypithecus pileatus are common. The local tribes, mostly Monpas and Sherdukpens are Buddhist and do not kill primates for food. However, a few Assamese macaques are occasionally killed to reduce depredation in maize fields. Serow Nemorhaedus sumatraensis, Goral N. Goral, and Barking Deer Muntiacus muntjak are also not uncommon. Both Goral and Barking Deer are frequently shot by local hunters. The Sambar Cervus unicolor is rare and the Musk Deer Moschus chrysogaster is only occasionally met with (Choudhury 2001).
BirdLife International (2019) Important Bird Areas factsheet: Shergaon, Mandla - Phudung and Kalaktang. Downloaded from http://www.birdlife.org on 22/09/2019.