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Location India, Meghalaya
Central coordinates 90o 53.40' East  25o 14.77' North
IBA criteria A1, A2, A4i
Area 26,947 ha
Altitude 50 - 1,026m
Year of IBA assessment 2004

Bombay Natural History Society

Site description This site includes two protected areas and a reserve forest in South Garo Hills district in western Meghalaya. The protected areas are Balpakram National Park (22,000 ha) and Siju Wildlife Sanctuary (518 ha), while the reserve forest is Baghmara (4,429 ha). The first two are contiguous, while the reserve forest is linked through unclassified forests. Balpakram literally means “continuous wind blow”. The Garos believe that it is the land of departed souls. The site, well known for its beautiful scenery, contains expansive tracts of relatively undisturbed forest clad hills and gorges. The area supports a large Asian Elephant Elephas maximus population (Anon. 2002, Choudhury 1999). Balpakram is comprised of a plateau of c. 700 ha at 797 m above msl from which originate a number of rivers that have cut deep gorges (up to nearly 800 m) and valleys in various directions. Mahadeo is one such spectacular canyon. The area is rich in minerals, notably coal (with a possible reserve of 107 million tonnes), limestone, mica, feldspar and beryl. Siju WLS is contiguous with Balpakram, and is also hilly with the River Simsang along its western boundary. The famous Siju cave is just outside the boundary of the Sanctuary. Baghmara RF located closeby touches the India-Bangladesh international border. It is a low hilly undulating country with marshy depressions. We have considered all three areas as one IBA. As the area is relatively remote, the forest cover is still intact. Eight forest types have been identified in this IBA: Tropical Evergreen forest on the gorges and steep slopes; Tropical Semievergreen or Mixed Evergreen forest in depressions on the plateau and surrounded by grassland or secondary forest; Riverine forest in areas subject to periodic inundation; grassland and tree savanna confined to Rongcheng and Lumsorjong areas and maintained through browsing and burning; Tropical Deciduous forest, which is a successional type and man-made forest; Bamboo forest, dominated by Bambusa sp. and Melocanna bambusifolia; and secondary formations in areas of shifting cultivation (Kumar and Rao 1985).

Key Biodiversity 

AVIFAUNA: This site is the known westernmost distributional limit of the Whitewinged Duck Cairina scutulata in its global range (Choudhury 1996a, 2002). The Balpakaram Complex is extremely rich in avian diversity, with about 250 species identified till now. It lies in the Eastern Himalayas Endemic Bird Area (EBA-130) and covers at least two biomes: Biome-9 (Indo-Chinese Tropical Moist Forests) and Biome-8 (Sino-Himalayan Temperate Forests). The following are some interesting species of Balpakram Complex: Mountain Bamboo Partridge Bambusicola fytchii, White-cheeked Partridge Arborophila atrogularis, Grey-peacock Pheasant Polyplectron bicalcaratum, Common Hill Partridge Arborophila torqueola, Grey-headed Parakeet Psittacula finschii, Striated Bulbul Pycnonotus striatus, White-throated Bulbul Alphoixus flaveolus, Black Bulbul Hypsipetes leucocephalus, Blue-throated Barbet Megalaima asiatica, Bay Woodpecker Blythipicus pyrrhotis, Shortbilled Minivet Pericrocotus brevirostris, Orange-bellied Leafbird Chloropsis hardwickii, Slaty-backed Forktail Enicurus schistaceus, Slaty-bellied Tesia Tesia olivea, Grey-bellied Tesia T. cyaniventer, Streaked Spiderhunter Arachnothera magna, Maroon Oriole Oriolus traillii, Grey Treepie Dendrocitta frontalis, Nepal House Martin Delichon nipalensis, Pale-headed Woodpecker Gecinulus grantia, Black-backed Forktail Enicurus immaculatus, Lesser Necklaced Laughingthrush Garrulax monileger, Greater Necklaced Laughingthrush G. pectoralis and Sultan Tit Melanochlora sultanea.

OTHER KEY FAUNA: The area supports a diverse fauna and, is an important refuge for Asian Elephant and the Tiger Panthera tigris. Seven species of primates are present, namely Assamese Macaque Macaca assamensis, Rhesus Macaque M. mulatta, Stump-tailed macaque M. arctoides, Pig-tailed macaque M. nemestrina, Capped Langur Trachypithecus pileata and Hoolock Gibbon Hylobates hoolock, and Slow Loris Nycticebus coucang. Carnivores include Wild Dog Cuon alpinus, Himalayan Black Bear Ursus thibetanus, Leopard Panthera pardus, Clouded Leopard Neofelis nebulosa, Golden Cat Catopuma temmincki, Red Panda Ailurus fulgens (Choudhury 1996b) and a number of other small felids. Ungulates include Wild Boar Sus scrofa, Sambar Cervus unicolor, Barking deer Muntiacus muntjak, Water Buffalo Bubalus arnee (=bubalis), Gaur Bos frontalis, Goral Nemorhaedus goral and Serow N. sumatraensis.

Populations of IBA trigger species

Species Season Period Population estimate Quality of estimate IBA Criteria IUCN Category
White-winged Duck Asarcornis scutulata resident  2004  present  A1  Endangered 
White-rumped Vulture Gyps bengalensis non-breeding  2004  present  A1  Critically Endangered 
Grey Sibia Heterophasia gracilis resident  2004  present  A2  Least Concern 

IBA Monitoring

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

Agriculture and aquaculture annual & perennial non-timber crops - shifting agriculture happening now small area/few individuals (<10%) slow but significant deterioration low
Agriculture and aquaculture livestock farming and ranching (includes forest grazing) - small-holder grazing, ranching or farming happening now small area/few individuals (<10%) slow but significant deterioration low
Biological resource use hunting & collecting terrestrial animals - intentional use (species being assessed is the target) happening now small area/few individuals (<10%) slow but significant deterioration low
Biological resource use logging & wood harvesting - unintentional effects: subsistence/small scale happening now small area/few individuals (<10%) moderate to rapid deterioration low
Energy production and mining mining and quarrying happening now small area/few individuals (<10%) very rapid to severe deterioration low
Natural system modifications dams & water management/use - large dams likely in long term (beyond 4 years) small area/few individuals (<10%) very rapid to severe deterioration low
Residential and commercial development commercial and industrial development likely in long term (beyond 4 years) small area/few individuals (<10%) very rapid to severe deterioration low

Protected areas

Protected area Designation Area (ha) Relationship with IBA Overlap with IBA (ha)  
Balphakram National Park 22,000 protected area contained by site 22,000  
Siju Sanctuary 518 protected area contained by site 518  


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: Nature Conservation

Acknowledgements Key contributors: Anwaruddin Choudhury, Kulojyoti Lahkar and Firoz Ahmed.


Anonymous (2002) Elephant Census 2002 in Meghalaya. Environment and Forest Department, Govt. of Meghalaya, Shillong.

Choudhury, A. U. (1996a) The Secrets of the Wood Duck. Environ IV (I): 16-19. Calcutta.

Choudhury, A. U. (1996b) Red panda in Garo Hills. Environ IV (I): 21. Calcutta.

Choudhury, A. U. (1999) Status and Conservation of the Asian elephant Elephas maximus in north-eastern India. Mammal Review29(3): 141-173.

Choudhury, A. U. (2002) Conservation of the White-winged Wood Duck Cairina scutulata in India, pp. 52-64. In: Birds of wetlands and grasslands: Proceedings of the Sâlim Ali Centenary Seminar on Conservation of avifauna of Wetlands and Grasslands.Eds: Rahmani, A.R. and Ugra, G. Bombay Natural History Society, Mumbai. Pp. x+228.

Kumar, Y. and Rao, R. R. (1985) Studies on Balaphakram Wildlife Sanctuary in Meghalaya - 3: General Account, Forest Types and Fauna. Ind. J. For. 8: 300 - 309.

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Recommended citation  BirdLife International (2016) Important Bird and Biodiversity Area factsheet: Balpakram Complex. Downloaded from on 28/10/2016

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