1. D’ering Wildlife Sanctuary

The first protected area after the Siang/Brahmaputra enters the plains from the Eastern Himalaya, D’ering has predominantly grassland habitat on sandy islands among the river channels. Its last rhino was recorded in 1965 and is an excellent potential site for the reintroduction of rhino. It has large mammals like elephant and wild buffalo and is a scenic site.

2. Dibru-Saikhowa National Park and Motapung-Maguri Beels

An example of a national park almost entirely within the river. It is very rich in biodiversity, but human settlements within the boundaries present intractable obstacles to the effective management and conservation of a rich grassland habitat and a potential rhino reintroduction site. It boasts of large mammals like elephants and wild buffalo, feral horses and over 493 species of birds.

3. Kaziranga, Orang & Pobitora National Parks and the Indian one-horned rhinoceros

The history of Kaziranga is inextricably linked with the saving of the Indian one-horned rhinoceros from certain extinction in 1905 to individuals in the thousands (2400) now and recent downgrading of status of this iconic, prehistoric species from Endangered to Vulnerable. It is also a grazing ground for mega-herbivores like the elephant and wild water buffalo and a stronghold of the endangered Bengal tiger. The productive grassland of these three representative wildernesses  and stringent protection provided has resulted in exemplary conservation success. Forest personnel narrate what it takes to protect rhinos.

4. Laokhowa and Burachapori Wildlife Sanctuaries

Grassland sites that lost most of their flagship species such as rhino, wild water buffalo and tiger to human disturbance and poaching, where natural dispersal of these species are being facilitated through protection of the river islands that serve as animal corridors. The site is also being prepared for reintroduction of rhinos. 

5. The River Elephants of Upper Assam.

The story of a herd of 150 elephants (now 70-80) that came to be marooned on the river islands of the Brahmaputra between Majuli (Jorhat) and Dehingmukh (Dibrugarh) in the early 2000s because of massive deforestation on the North Bank of the Brahmaputra and the construction of the NHPC dam on the Subansiri, cutting off their access to their lowland ranging and feeding grounds in the foothills. A tragic story of a homeless herd, and the equally tragic price that has to be paid by the people living on Majuli island and the south bank of the river across these three districts  where the elephants destroy crops, property and human life. A cautionary tale about the unforeseen impacts of deforestation and unplanned development projects on wildlife and humans.

6.Island tigers

A WWF study documents the use of the Brahmaputra river islands between Orang and Kaziranga NP by tigers for feeding, shelter and dispersal. These islands are  crucial in maintaining the genetic linkages between sites that are otherwise isolated from one another. They feed on livestock from khutis during their stay or movement on the river, and removal of cattle, while essential, has to be done over a period of time in order to sustain these tigers until the natural vegetation regenerates and wild prey are established. 

7.River dolphins

The survival of the endemic dolphin of the Ganges-Brahmaputra river system in an increasingly polluted and over-fished river depends on extensive awareness against killing, harmful fishing practices and judicious planning for scores of dams on tributaries of the Brahmaputra that will affect the hydrology and ecology of the river in ways that are difficult to predict but might prove costly for this iconic species of the river.

8. The Bengal Florican

With fewer than a thousand birds in three populations worldwide (India, Cambodia and Nepal), the population of 250-280 birds in India, most of it in the Brahmaputra valley  is of great conservation significance. An obligate grassland species, the Bengal Florican prefers very specific habitats. They avoid inundated areas, prefer higher grounds and a combination of grasslands, both tall and short with grass height being a crucial requirement. Short grass areas are for territorial displays, and tall grasslands are for nesting and shade. They are direly threatened by conversion of their preferred grassland habitats to agriculture and settlements.

 

 

9. The Golden langur

The endemic and endangered Golden Langur was only discovered and described to science by forest officer E.P.Gee in 1952 in Jamduar. Previously believed to be restricted to Manas, in recent decades small populations have been identified in forests of western Assam, mostly isolated by fragmentation. They also occur in the bordering areas of Bhutan. The Chakrashila Wildlife Sanctuary of Kokrajhar district was given protected status specially for the langurs. The global population is about 5000 individuals. The species is shy and folivorous i.e. leaf eaters. Debahutee Roy studies them in a rubber plantation where they have adapted to the limited food available and have become habituated to humans. The golden langurs in altered habitats are ecological refugees, and an example of our failure to secure large extents of forest where natural processes can occur undisturbed and provide self-sustaining systems for wildlife.


10 Jadav Payenge’s (Molai) Sapori forest restoration

The endemic and endangered Golden Langur was only discovered and described to science by forest officer E.P.Gee in 1952 in Jamduar. Previously believed to be restricted to Manas, in recent decades small populations have been identified in forests of western Assam, mostly isolated by fragmentation. They also occur in the bordering areas of Bhutan. The Chakrashila Wildlife Sanctuary of Kokrajhar district was given protected status specially for the langurs. The global population is about 5000 individuals. The species is shy and folivorous i.e. leaf eaters. Debahutee Roy studies them in a rubber plantation where they have adapted to the limited food available and have become habituated to humans. The golden langurs in altered habitats are ecological refugees, and an example of our failure to secure large extents of forest where natural processes can occur undisturbed and provide self-sustaining systems for wildlife.

Wetlands of western Assam

In the Bongaigoan, Kokrajhar, Dhubri, Goalpara, Barpeta, Nalbari and Chirang districts of western Assam, a few large wetlands like Urpad,  Tamronga, Doloni, Dheer and Diplai were well known. There are many small wetlands, however,  which were unexplored until recently. Here hundreds of migratory birds come each year , but there are also several which are degrading or degraded due to human disturbance and encroachment. Ill-advised construction of embankments that prevents annual floods from flushing out from the beels weeds like water hyacinths, speeds up eutrophication. Loss of wetlands is also loss of livelihoods and cultural elements of the communities who are dependent on them.

Conservation Issues – deforestation, river degradation and dams, encroachment and obstruction of river corridors.

Like all alluvial systems, the riparian habitat of the Brahmaputra is created and maintained by silt deposited by overflowing of the banks. Deforestation in the upper catchments of tributaries and the main river has resulted in heavy silt loads and subsequent reduction in the depth of the river bed, slowing of flow and erosion of banks. Changing dynamics disrupts successional stages of vegetation.
There is a need to value natural resources for the tangible benefits they provide as watersheds and clean environments, that in turn impact lives and livelihoods. Indiscriminate damming of rivers in the North-east will have unforeseen and negative impacts on the environment and communities, as seen in examples like the Ranganadi in Lakhimpur. Drying up of rivers will in turn impact all the wetlands fed by seasonal flooding and on which both migratory wildlife, including bird species depend. 
Systematic encroachment of forest areas has resulted in Assam having the highest rate of forest loss in the country. Unless government policy takes into account the value of forests and preserves them for the long term good of the region and country, forest loss and the associated loss of biodiversity is inevitable.
Eco-tourism may be a viable incentive for local communities to protect wilderness areas, but these have to be planned in a scientific manner with the help of experts to be of minimal impact and maximum value.
Landscape planning for forest and wildlife conservation is the way forward. Currently, conservation strategy is to preserve the already isolated patches of forest and maintain status quo. With all the attendant pressures on such isolates, it is not possible to envisage a long term future for our forests, rivers and wildlife. In Kaziranga, attempts ate on to protect the Brahmaputra river islands to connect separated patches. Further upstream, Kobo Chapori, a proposed reserve forest under Dhemaji division, represents a crucial wildlife corridor connecting the forests of Arunachal Pradesh, Poba RF of Assam, D’ering WLS and Dibru-Saikhowa NP. It is important to secure these key linkages sooner rather than later

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