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Location India, Assam
Central coordinates 92o 10.80' East  26o 9.47' North
IBA criteria A1, A2, A4iii
Area 3,883 ha
Altitude 0
Year of IBA assessment 2004

Bombay Natural History Society

Site description Located close to Guwahati, the capital of Assam, Pabitora is high on the agenda of visitors to northeast India. It is only an hour’s drive from the capital. The Sanctuary is known for its dense population of Indian One-horned Rhinoceros Rhinoceros unicornis. Around 70 animals are found in 1,600 ha, making it the most densely populated rhino area in the world! The original Sanctuary area is flat terrain, being on the floodplains, and consists of grassland (c. 70%) with c. 100 ha of forest and some waterbodies (beels). The hill of Raja Mayong, which has been included subsequently in this Sanctuary, is an isolated hillock with Moist Deciduous Forest. Pabitora is traversed by seasonal channels that become lakes in winter. These include Garanga, Haduk, and Tuplung. Tamuliduba is large and close to the main road. Crop fields are present all around this small reserve. Pabitora was a traditional grazing reserve, where the villagers used to graze their cattle and buffalo. It was declared as a Reserve Forest and then a Wildlife Sanctuary to protect the rhinos. In winter, Pabitora becomes a birder’s haven, with thousands of waterfowl thronging the wetlands. Pabitora can be divided into three distinct categories: forest, grassland and water bodies or beels. Only about 13% of the total area is under tree cover, consisting of Albizzia procera, Bombax ceiba, Lagerstromia flosreginae and Barringtonia acutangula. About 72% of Pabitora consists of wet savannah of Arundo donax, Erianthus ravennae, Phragmites karka, Imperata cylindrica, and Saccharum spp. (Barua 1998, Choudhury 2000). The remaining area is covered by beels. Water hyacinth Eichornia crassipes is a major problem, especially to waterfowl, as it forms thick mats on the water surface. Euryale ferox is seen in some open areas. It is a very good breeding ground for Pheasant-tailed Jacana Hydrophasianus chirurgus and Bronze-winged Jacana Metopidius indicus.

Key Biodiversity 

AVIFAUNA: The site contains more than 190 bird species, including many threatened ones such as the Spot-billed Pelican Pelecanus philippensis, White-bellied Heron Ardea insignis, Lesser Adjutant Leptoptilos javanicus, Greater Adjutant L. dubius, Bengal Florican Houbaropsis bengalensis and Swamp Francolin Francolinus gularis. The Pelicans used to breed here (Choudhury 2000), but no longer do so. The Bengal florican has not been seen since the mid 1990s, due to disturbance. Pabitora grasslands and wetlands harbour most of the representative birds of the Brahmaputra floodplains such as Striated Babbler Turdoides earlei and Yellow Weaver Ploceus megarhynchus. The wetlands of Pabitora attract thousands of waterfowl during winter. The site qualifies for A4iii criteria because more than 20,000 waterfowl are regularly found there. Talukdar (1996) has recorded 57 wetland species, including 16 ducks and geese and four species of storks. During a waterfowl count in 1997, more than 55,000 birds of 36 species were seen (Barua 1998). The site lies in the Indo-Gangetic Plains (Biome-12) and the Assam Plains Endemic Bird Area (EBA 131) where Stattersfield et al. (1998) have identified three species, wholly confined to this EBA (Manipur Bush Quail Perdicula manipurensis, Black-breasted Parrotbill Paradoxornis flavirostris and Marsh Babbler Pellorneum palustre). The last species has been reported from this site (Mrigen Barua pers. comm. 2001). BirdLife International (undated) has identified 13 species in Biome-12. Till now, eight species have been identified from this site, and more are likely to be present.

OTHER KEY FAUNA: Besides the Indian One-horned Rhinoceros, Fishing Cat Felis viverrinus, Golden Jackal Canis aureus, Common Otter Lutra lutra, and Wild Boar Sus scrofa are found in the original sanctuary area, while Leopard Panthera pardus, Leopard Cat Prionailurus bengalensis, Rhesus Macaque Macaca mulatta and Barking Deer Muntiacus muntjak are seen in Raja Mayong area. A herd of feral water buffaloes is present. Reptiles include turtles such as Brahminy Terrapin Hardella thurjii, Spotted Pond terrapin Geoclemys hamiltonii, and various species of snakes.

Populations of IBA trigger species

Species Season Period Population estimate Quality of estimate IBA Criteria IUCN Category
Swamp Francolin Francolinus gularis resident  2004  present  A1  Vulnerable 
Lesser Adjutant Leptoptilos javanicus resident  2004  present  A1  Vulnerable 
Greater Adjutant Leptoptilos dubius breeding  2004  present  A1  Endangered 
White-bellied Heron Ardea insignis resident  2004  present  A1  Critically Endangered 
Spot-billed Pelican Pelecanus philippensis resident  2004  present  A1  Near Threatened 
Lesser Kestrel Falco naumanni passage  2004  present  A1  Least Concern 
Pallas's Fish-eagle Haliaeetus leucoryphus resident  2004  present  A1  Vulnerable 
White-rumped Vulture Gyps bengalensis non-breeding  2004  present  A1  Critically Endangered 
Greater Spotted Eagle Clanga clanga winter  2004  present  A1  Vulnerable 
Slender-billed Vulture Gyps tenuirostris non-breeding  2004  present  A1  Critically Endangered 
Bengal Florican Houbaropsis bengalensis resident  2004  present  A1  Critically Endangered 
Spotted Greenshank Tringa guttifer winter  2004  present  A1  Endangered 
Yellow-vented Warbler Phylloscopus cantator winter  2004  present  A2  Least Concern 
Marsh Babbler Pellorneum palustre resident  2004  present  A1, A2  Vulnerable 
Yellow Weaver Ploceus megarhynchus resident  2004  present  A1  Vulnerable 
A4iii Species group - waterbirds unknown  2004  20,000 individuals  unknown  A4iii   

IBA Monitoring

2003 very high not assessed not assessed
Good - based on reliable and complete / representative data

Agriculture and aquaculture annual & perennial non-timber crops - small-holder farming likely in short term (within 4 years) some of area/population (10-49%) very rapid to severe deterioration high
Agriculture and aquaculture livestock farming and ranching (includes forest grazing) - small-holder grazing, ranching or farming happening now whole area/population (>90%) moderate to rapid deterioration very high
Biological resource use fishing & harvesting aquatic resources - unintentional effects: subsistence/small scale happening now some of area/population (10-49%) moderate to rapid deterioration high
Biological resource use gathering terrestrial plants - unintentional effects (species being assessed is not the target) happening now majority/most of area/population (50-90%) slow but significant deterioration high
Biological resource use hunting & collecting terrestrial animals - intentional use (species being assessed is the target) happening now some of area/population (10-49%) moderate to rapid deterioration high
Human intrusions and disturbance work and other activities happening now small area/few individuals (<10%) slow but significant deterioration low

Protected areas

Protected area Designation Area (ha) Relationship with IBA Overlap with IBA (ha)  
Pabitora Sanctuary 3,883 is identical to site 3,883  


IUCN habitat Habitat detail Extent (% of site)
Forest   -
Grassland   -
Wetlands (inland)   -

Land use

Land-use Extent (% of site)
forestry -
Notes: Forest
nature conservation and research -
Notes: Conservation
tourism/recreation -
Notes: Tourism and recreation

Acknowledgements Key contributors: Mrigen Barua and Anwaruddin Choudhury.


Barua, M. (1998) Pabitora Wildlife Sanctuary. Zoo’s Print 4: 9-11.

BirdLife International (undated) Important Bird Areas (IBAs) in Asia: Project briefing book. BirdLife International, Cambridge, U.K., unpublished.

Choudhury, A. U. (2000) The Birds of Assam. Gibbon Books and WWFIndia, N E Regional Office, Guwahati.

Stattersfield, A. J., Crosby, M. J., Long, A. J. and Wege, D. C. (1998) Endemic Bird Areas of the World: Priorities for Biodiversity Conservation. BirdLife Conservation Series No. 7. BirdLife International, Cambridge, U.K.

Talukdar, B. K. (1996) Diversity of water birds in Pabitora Wildlife Sanctuary. Pavo 34: 17-21.

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Recommended citation  BirdLife International (2016) Important Bird and Biodiversity Area factsheet: Pabitora Wildlife Sanctuary. Downloaded from on 22/10/2016

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