IN173
Toranmal Reserve Forest


Year of compilation: 2004

Site description
Toranmal Reserve Forest is located in Shahada tehsil of Nandurbar district, Maharashtra. Situated south of the Narmada river, c. 100 km from the Gujarat border, this area is located on the Deccan pleateau of Central India. The general topography of the area is undulating hills with open as well as dense patches of forests, which are Dry Deciduous type. There are 46 villages in and around the Reserve Forest, and the local population depends entirely on the forest for livelihood. Nine different tribal communities reside in and around the Reserve Forest. The Pawara, Bheel, Nahal, and Rathod tribals are the dominant tribal communities who have been living in these forests for hundreds of years. This Reserve Forest has two water reservoirs which support the surrounding villages and wildlife. However, the area experiences acute water shortage during the hot dry summer months. This IBA has Tropical Dry Deciduous type of forest. About 225 species of plants are reported from the Reserve Forest (Forest Department checklist). The dominant species are Teak Tectona grandis, Salai Boswellia serrata, Kadam Mitragyna parvifolia, Mahua Madhuca indica, and Red Silk Cotton Bombax ceiba.

Key biodiversity

AVIFAUNA: Davidson (1881) mentioned the rich bird diversity of this region. He had recorded around 294 species of birds from Western Khandesh. He also recorded the Green Munia Amandava formosa, Syke’s Nightjar Caprimulgus mahrattensis, Blue-cheeked Bee-eater Merops persicus, Spot-billed Pelican Pelecanus philippensis, Sociable Lapwing Vanellus gregarius, Lesser Florican Sypheotides indica, Great Indian Bustard Ardeotis nigriceps and the Forest Owlet Heteroglaux blewitti. Due to the increasing human population, these birds were slowly eliminated from Western Khandesh. Toranmal Reserve Forest is considered to be one of the last refuges of the Critically Endangered, endemic Forest Owlet. This species was considered extinct until 1997, when it was rediscovered by Ben King and Pamela Rasmussen (King and Rasmussen 1998). Since 1999, the BNHS is carrying out ecological studies on this bird (Ishtiaq and Rahmani 2000, Jathar and Rahmani 2002). The presence of the Critically Endangered Forest owlet is reason enough to designate this area as an IBA. Along with Taloda, Toranmal is one of the few sites in India that come under Secondary Area category of BirdLife International (undated) and Stattersfield et al. (1998). Secondary area is an area which supports one or more restricted range species, but does not qualify as an Endemic Bird Area because fewer that two species are entirely confined to it. The remnant forest of Western Khandesh is representative of the type of forest that was present a hundred years ago. Most of the rare species mentioned by Davidson (1881) are no longer found here, but even so birds of tropical dry deciduous forest are found. According to studies conducted by the BNHS, there are 233 species of birds (G. Jathar, unpublished checklist.). Of the 59 Biome-11 species identified by BirdLife International (undated), 27 have already been seen here. Therefore, this site qualifies in A3 criteria also.

OTHER KEY FAUNA: Studies conducted by the BNHS have revealed eight species of rodents, three species of shrews, five species of lizards and skinks, four species of geckos and five species of amphibians. Large mammals include Leopard Panthera pardus, Golden Jackal Canis aureus, Four-horned Antelope Tetracerus quadricornis, Sloth Bear Melursus ursinus, and Striped Hyena Hyaena hyaena.Rufous-tailed Hare Lepus nigricollis ruficaudatus is quite common. Forty species of butterflies have been recorded (G. Jathar pers. comm. 2003).

Pressure/threats to key biodiversity
MAIN THREATS: Encroachment; Grazing; Illicit wood cutting; Intentional forest fires; Poor management practices by Forest Department; Myths and misconceptions among tribals.

Toranmal Reserve Forest is under tremendous human pressure. It suffers from the usual problems of a typical Indian forest: overgrazing by livestock, illicit cutting of trees, encroachment, intentional fires set by tribal and graziers for good growth of grass, removal of large trees in the name of collection of minor forest products, etc. The remaining pairs of Forest Owlet are under intense pressure of poaching by tribals for superstitious reasons. It was observed that the local tribals utilize owl eggs and body parts for witchcraft and other ritual customs (Jathar and Rahmani 2002). Another longer-term threat is the encroachment around the Forest Owlet area by tribals for cultivation. Forest management practices such as removal of bamboo and afforestation of exotic species in the Forest Owlet area may significantly affect the Forest Owlet habitat. Scientific management of the Reserve Forest is required. It is strongly recommended that any further deforestation in the name of rehabilitation of Narmada Dam oustees should be stopped at once, and this important habitat of the Forest Owlet should be declared as a National Park or a Sanctuary. Very strong environmental awareness programmes should be started amongst the tribals to wean them away from killing this highly endangered bird. Perhaps an alternative to their customary practices should be found.

Acknowledgements
Key contributor: Girish A. Jathar.


Recommended citation
BirdLife International (2023) Important Bird Areas factsheet: Toranmal Reserve Forest. Downloaded from http://www.birdlife.org on 09/02/2023.