Tucked in between Bangladesh in the west and Myanmar in the east and bordered by Tripura, Assam and Manipur on the north lies the land locked north-eastern Indian State of Mizoram. Encompassing 21,087 sq kms of variegated hilly terrain Mizoram is part of the " Mizoram-Manipur-Kachin Rain Forests" eco-region which is reported to have the highest bird species richness of all eco-regions in the Indo-Pacific region. The area is dominated by steep hills, deep gorges and
dissected landscapes with the average height being 900 meters. The hill ranges were created 40 to 50 million years ago when the Laurasian mainland met the northward-drifting Deccan Plateau. These mountains are a bio-geographic crossroads for the Indian, Indo-Malayan, and Indo-Chinese biotas (Rodgers & Panwar 1988) and are characterized by high biological diversity.
The area is fed by high rainfall which exceed 2755 mm annually. The climate, terrain and heavy precipitation has resulted in a landscape rich in semi-evergreen forests that cover more than 80% of Mizoram. Per Champion and Seth the forests of Mizoram can be classified as:
1. Tropical Wet Evergreen: Found in the southern and western parts of the state. Common tree species include
Syzigium cuminii, Artocarpus chaplasha, Michelia champaca, Dipterocarpus turbinatus, Dendrocalamus hamiltonii, Melocanna baccifera and
2. Tropical Semi-evergreen: 50% of the area is covered by this type of forest and key tree species here include Gmelina arborea, Phoebe attenauta, Syzigium cuminii, Albizia chinensis, Albizia procera, Sapium baccatum, Schima wallichii, Castanopsis tribulidies, Styrax polyspermum, Melocanna baccifera and
3. Sub-tropical Hill: This type is found on the eastern side bordering Myanmar and cover 25% of the geographical area.
Myrica esculenta, Rhododendron arboreum, Pinus kesiya, Lithocarpus dealbata, Quercus griffithii, Q. serrata, Arundinaria callos, Chimonobambusa khasiana, Dendrocalamus sikkimensis, D. giganteus, Melocanna baccifera and Meocalamus compactiflorus. Many epiphytic orchids are found in this area.
But whatever be the forest types in theory, in practice Mizoram is all about bamboo - and miles and miles of it. Shifting "Jhum" cultivation, uncontrolled fires and widespread unregulated felling has turned most of Mizoram into a "Bamboo Wasteland" where every inch almost is covered by young bamboo waiting to be felled in the next jhum cycle. Mizoram has 20 species of bamboo and one species
Melocanna baccifera dominates with more than 75% of the area under bamboo vegetation being under this species. Other key bamboo species include
Dendrocalamus longispathus and
The forest of Mizoram hold many threatened animal
species including the Tiger, Asian Elephant, Clouded Leopard, Gaur, Goral, Hoolock Gibbon, Stump-tailed Macaque, Binturong and many others. But the area is also justly as famous for its birds with some great rarities to be found only here in India. Mrs Hume's Pheasant (State bird), Blyth's Tragopan, Green Peafowl, White-cheeked Partridge, Blyth's Kingfisher, Blue Pitta, Moustached, Striped, Rufous-vented,
Brown-capped and Spot-breasted Laughingthrushes, Crested Finchbill, Olive and Flavescent Bulbuls, Oriental Hobby, Wedge-billed Wren-babbler and Purple-throated Sunbird are just some of the species that can be found in the area.
I visited Mizoram for a week in late February 2005 and birded around Aizwal city and also at
Dampa Tiger Reserve at the western border of Mizoram. The following pages contain 44 bird and butterfly images photographed during the visit to these areas.
I saw 92 species of birds and some mammals on the trip and the Trip Report and Trip List contains details of these observations.
6 full days and only 88 wild bird species (4 captive species excluded) is not indicative of the most bird rich area in the Indo-Pacific region and therein lies the tragedy of birds and birding in Mizoram. Mizoram has birds, and lots of them as is to be expected in such a forest rich area. But, hunting and trapping for the pot is a tradition of people whose livelihood is forest dependent and bamboo and birds are harvested with equal dexterity and enthusiasm. This makes birds in Mizoram
survival artists and they demonstrate their survival tactics with the cleanest pair of wings this side of the subcontinent. As a result very few birds are seen in open areas, almost none in the air and those which are seen are difficult to identify due to distance and use of every available camouflage tool. Air guns, catapults (with the rubber imported from Myanmar), liming, traps are all used in food gathering and evidence is easy to find. It is only the richness of forest cover, the difficult
terrain and the lack of roads which prevents complete annihilation of every bird and animal species in Mizoram. There is a little awareness creeping in now as Mizos realise that symbolic species like the Hoolock Gibbon and Great Hornbill are close to extinction in the area. Efforts to protect these may lead to the protection of other species as well. Organizations like YMA and individuals like
K. Lianthanga hold the key to the future of the faunal treasures
of Mizoram as the efforts of the Department of Environment and Forests in Mizoram have to be augmented by the peoples will if preservation is to succeed.
How to reach:
Lengpui Airport, 40 kms from Aizwal city, capital of the State of Mizoram is connected by daily flights from Kolkata. There are also flights from Guwahati and Imphal on certain days of the week. Aizwal city is also connected by road from Silchar, Assam along National Highway 54, a journey which takes 6 hours.
Dampa Tiger Reserve is 127 kms over good but twisting roads from Aizwal and 90 kms from Lengpui via West Phaileng. Journey from Aizwal takes about 3-4 hours.
Where to stay:
Inside Dampa Tiger Reserve: Forest Department accommodation at Teirei, Phuldungsei, Damparengpui. Food arrangements have to be made by visitors themselves.
Contact for booking and further information:
The Field Director
Dampa Tiger Reserve
1) Govt. of Mizoram Tourist Lodge
2) Hotel Tropicana
3) Hotel Ritz
4) Hotel Chief
Domestic Tourists: Inner Line Permit is required from any of the Liaison Officers posted in Mizoram House at various places. Two passport size photographs are required to be attached on prescribed form, available at Mizoram House.
Foreign Tourists: For a group of 4 members or more, Restricted Area Permit (RAP) can be obtained from the Resident Commissioner, Mizoram House, New Delhi. Otherwise, permit is to be obtained from Ministry of Home Affairs, Government of India, New Delhi
Longitude: 92o 15' & 93o 29' E;
Latitude: 21o 58' & 24o 35' N
November to March;
Winters are pleasant (Low: 100c) and summers comfortable (High: 300c )
Mizoram ~ Official Govt. of Mizoram website
Aizwal city information
WWF profile of region
DAMPA TIGER RESERVE
Dampa Tiger Reserve: Adjoining Bangladesh on the west, the 500 square
kilometre Dampa Tiger Reserve is 127 Km. from Aizwal city and 90 Kms. from Lengpui Airport. Dampa is close to the Tropic of cancer at 92013' - 92027' E and 23032' - 23041' N and covers an covers and altitudinal zone of 200 - 2100 meters.
The lower reaches are covered by moist deciduous forests and evergreen and semi-evergreen forests interspersed with natural grassland characterize the higher levels.
Dampa is home for Tiger, Sloth Bear, Leopard, Asian Elephant, Hoolock Gibbon, Wild Dog, Leopard Cat and many other mammals. Bird life includes many Galliformes, three hornbill species, eagles, trogons, broadbills, leafbirds, bulbuls, drongos, lauhingthrushes, spiderhunters and sunbirds.
Mr. K. Lianthanga and Sinners' Friend organization: In Mizoram what strikes a birder is the the complete absence of visible bird life. Imagine my surprise when I almost stumbled over a pair of Kalij Pheasants the moment we drove into the Community Reserve Forest managed by Mr. Lianthanga only 15 kms. from the concrete jungle of Aizwal city and a short distance away from the highway connecting Aizwal with Silchar.
Mr. Lianthanga, a dedicated social worker received fifty acres of degraded jhum land in 1984 and in twenty years has converted it into a vibrant biological sanctuary with a rich mix of local flora where are living things are truly protected. My few hours at Sinners' Friend was extremely rewarding and helped me observe some great birds in close proximity of Aizwal city. It also restored my confidence in the future of Mizoram's flora and fauna - there will surely be more Mr. Lianthangas
to nurture and protect as the situation deteriorates.
Sinners' Friend Organization: This is a registered NGO which runs a drug/alcohol de-addition and rehabilitation centre at Aizwal and Lalveli. The organization also runs an orphanage at Meghalaya. Drug and alcohol abuse is a growing problem in Mizoram and efforts like these are much needed.