Birds, mammals & a frog found at 14000 feet- Researchers find wealth of bio-diversity for the first time during a survey in an Arunachal wetland
|Khamkar Tso lake in Nagula wetland complex in Tawang. (Western Arunachal Landscape conservation programme, WWF)|
Guwahati, Sept. 26: Wildlife researchers have discovered an amazing range of bio-diversity, including a toad at 4,200 metres (nearly 14,000 feet), tucked away among the high altitude wetland complex of Nagula in Tawang.
Field researchers of WWF-India (western Arunachal landscape), G.B. Pant Institute of Himalayan Environment and Development of North East Unit (Itanagar), ornithologists along with local guides and forest department officials, who had carried out a baseline survey of Nagula wetland complex, have found nearly 70 birds and three species of mammals and an amphibian.
The survey, under the Saving Wetland Sky High project for documentation and conservation of high altitude wetlands, was conducted from August 24 to September 6.
“During the survey, the presence of rich avian assemblage, altogether 70 from the area have been sighted. Among the mammals, two mountain pikas and Himalayan marmot were found. A species of bufo (toad) has also been recorded,” Pijush Kumar Dutta landscape co-ordinator, Western Arunachal Landscape Conservation Programme, WWF-India, told The Telegraph.
Dutta said the species of bufo at an elevation of 4,200 metres has been recorded for the first time and it could be new to science. This toad has shorter limbs with nearly free toes and has red warts, black eyes and a pale yellow line on its back.
The pikas are small animals with short limbs, rounded ears, short tail and live on rocky mountains. The marmots are generally large ground squirrels.
Some of rare bird species sighted during the survey includes red-billed leiothrix, sand martin, Oriental white eye, chestnut-headed tesia, Hume’s warbler, grey-hooded warbler, black-faced laughingthrush, grey-headed fish eagle and Baer’s pochard.
Nagula wetland complex is situated in the north of the Tawang township of western Arunachal Pradesh, bordering Tibet.
The wetland complex comprises of more than 100 permanent alpine freshwater lakes at an altitude of 3,500 metres to 4,500 metres. The wetland complex, with all these lakes, acts as a reservoir for the Nyamjangchu river, an important tributary of the Manas.
“Of the 100 lakes, now we have complete documentation of 19 lakes for the first time. The survey has provides information on location of the existing lakes, its physicochemical properties as well as the flora and fauna in the wetland catchments,” he said.
This information related to these lakes will be put in the wetland directory of the western Arunachal Pradesh. Most of these wetlands act as reservoir for the three major rivers in West Kameng and Tawang districts — Tawangchu, Nyamjangchu and Kameng.
The army has administrative rights over the area. Some of the important lakes of the complex include Gribchang Tso, Panggang-Tang Tso, Thauliyum Tso, Choimechang and Jongatser.
“We have learnt the names of some of the lakes for the first time with help from experts from Tawang monastery,” Dutta said.
The wetlands are one of the most productive eco-systems in the biosphere and play a significant role in maintaining the ecological balance of a region. The Indian Himalayas harbours some of the spectacular and biologically rich wetlands of the world.
“Considering that the area is one of the most sought after destinations for tourists who visit Tawang and based on the information collected during the survey, an action plan for the management of these lakes jointly with 190 Mountain Brigade at Tawang and the state forest department will be developed,” Dutta said.
Four wetland complexes have been prioritised for conservation — Bhagajang wetland complex, Nagula wetland complex, Thembang Bapu community conserved area wetland complex and Pangchen Lumpo Muchat community conserved area wetland complex by WWF-India jointly with the army and the state forest department, Tawang monastery and local villagers.
“All these high altitude wetlands have connection with the Buddhist culture and traditions and its fringing pastures serves as a grazing ground for the large fleet of sheep and yak population,” Dutta said.