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Location India, Meghalaya
Central coordinates 91o 50.38' East  25o 51.77' North
IBA criteria A1
Area 2,900 ha
Altitude 200 - 950m
Year of IBA assessment 2004

Bombay Natural History Society

Site description This site includes Nongkhyllem Wildlife Sanctuary (2,900 ha), Nongkhyllem Reserve Forest (9,691 ha) and a portion of community forest west of the Umtrew river that is being acquired by the State Government (2,300 ha). This area is among the last large tracts of wilderness left in Meghalaya. It is located in the Ri- Bhoi district of Meghalaya. Earlier Ri-Bhoi was a sub-division of East Khasi Hills district. The area consists of undulating plains to low hills, which are part of the Archaean Meghalaya Plateau. The area has become broken and rugged, especially towards west and north, because of continuous erosion by the rivers Umtrew, Umran, Umling, Umtasor and other smaller streams. The lowest parts of the Sanctuary are about 200 m above msl near Lailad, while the highest are 950 m above msl in the eastern and southern areas. The Umtrew is the main river of the area and the rest named above are its tributaries. The Umtrew also marks the western boundary of the Reserve Forest and the Sanctuary. There is a natural lake called Birbah in the southern part of the Sanctuary, with an area of about 15 ha of which open area is less than 5 ha the rest being covered with grass and reeds. The elevation of the lake is about 580 m. There are two other small artificial lakes (reservoirs) near Birbah, and two large reservoirs just outside the reserve forests, where a good number of wintering and passage migrants are seen (Choudhury 2002). The area has a tropical monsoon climate. The summer are hot and wet while the winters are cool and dry. The average annual rainfall is about 2,500 mm. The area is in the relatively low rainfall zone. The major part of the habitat is Tropical Moist Deciduous forest with patches of Tropical Semi-evergreen forest, especially in the river valleys and stream. The deciduous forests can be classified as ‘Khasi hill sal’ and ‘Kamrup sal’ (Champion and Seth 1968). The Sal Shorea robusta dominates the vegetation in the entire southern area. Elsewhere, the top forest canopy consists of Tetrameles nudiflora, Pterospermum acerifolium, Amoora wallichi, Artocarpus chaplasha, Michelia champaca, Mesua ferrea and others species. Abandoned jhums (slash-and-burn shifting cultivation of hill tribes) are covered with various grasses and shrubs. Large stretches of Bamboos, especially Oxytenanthera nigrociliata and Dendrocalamus hamiltonii are found, mainly in old jhum areas. Plantations of the Forest Department are mostly covered with Sal Shorea robusta and Teak Tectona grandis. Small, scattered patches of grassland occur in different areas of the Sanctuary, mainly in the depressions. These bear Alpinia allughas herb and Arundo donax and Neyraudia reynaudiana grasses (Choudhury 1998).

Key Biodiversity 

AVIFAUNA: More than 400 bird species were recorded from Nongkhyllem WLS, RF and adjacent areas including Umiam Lake (a separate IBA) (Choudhury 1998). In the Nongkhyllem site alone, the species diversity should be more than 300. The Swamp Francolin Francolinus gularis, which apparently was found earlier in this area, has disappeared mainly due to destruction of its grassy habitat. In the past, it used to occur in the wet grasslands of Nongpoh Valley, and the valleys of the Umran Rivers near Nunmati area (Choudhury 1998). Although Nongkhyllem is well within the distribution range of the Manipur Bush-quail Perdicula manipurensis, Choudhury (1998) could not find any evidence of its presence. The Near Threatened White-cheeked Hill Partridge Arborophila atrogularis was once not uncommon but it has apparently declined due to extensive trapping. However, Kaleej Pheasant Lophura leucomelanos, Red Junglefowl Gallus gallus and Grey Peacock Pheasant Polyplectron bicalcaratum are still relatively common, despite trapping and shooting. According to Choudhury (1998), this site has potential habitat for the globally threatened Wood Snipe Gallinago nemoricola, although none were sighted during his surveys. The forests of Nongkhyllem have 14 species of green pigeons and doves, 16 species of woodpeckers and piculets, six species of barbets, 11 species of bulbuls, and four species of hornbills (Choudhury 1998). The globally threatened Rufous-necked Hornbill Aceros nipalensis is very rare and was not seen by Choudhury (1998) during his surveys. However, there is a specimen record from Khasi Hills (Baker 1907). Another species that has apparently disappeared is the Near Threatened Brown Hornbill Anorrhinus tickelli. The extant species of hornbills are Wreathed Aceros undulatus, Indian Pied Anthracoceros malabaricus and Great Pied Buceros bicornis. The Finch-billed Bulbul Spizixos canifrons, now called Crested Finchbill, a bird found between 1,400 m to 2,500 m, but descending in winter to 900 m (Ali and Ripley 1987) was collected by Hume (1888) from the neighbourhood of Shillong and nearby areas. Choudhury (1998) could not find any specimen in Nongkhyllem but writes that it ‘may be found in the higher areas such as Umiam (Barapani), towards south of Nongkhyllem’. As the area lies below 1,000 m, it falls in Biome-9 (Indo-Chinese Tropical Moist Forest). BirdLife International (undated) has listed 19 species in this biome, out of which eight species have been found in this IBA by Choudhury (1998): White-cheeked Partridge, Grey Peacock Pheasant, Pale-headed Woodpecker Gecinulus grantia, Black-backed Forktail Enicurus immaculatus, Lesser Necklaced Laughingthrush Garrulax monileger, Greater Necklaced Laughingthrush Garrulax pectoralis, Rufous-necked Laughingthrush Garrulax ruficollis and Sultan Tit Melanochlora sultanea. During winter, many species of Biome-7 (Sino- Himalayan Temperate Forest) and Biome-8 (Sino-Himalayan Subtropical Forest) descend to this site. The noteworthy species are Sapphire Flycatcher Ficedula sapphira, Rufous-bellied Niltava Niltava sundara, Bay Woodpecker Blythipicus pyrrhotis, Rosy Minivet Rosy Minivet, Short-billed Minivet Pericrocotus brevirostris, Striated Bulbul Pycnonotus striatus, White-throated Bulbul Alophoixus flaveolus, Slaty-backed Forktail Enicurus schistaceus, Orange-bellied Leafbird Chloropsis hardwickii, Slatybellied Tesia Tesia olivea, Streaked Spiderhunter Arachnothera magna and Maroon Oriole Oriolus traillii. This site is selected as an IBA on the basis of the presence of globally Threatened species (A1 criteria).

OTHER KEY FAUNA: The area is rich in other wildlife with a high density of large mammals, especially in the northern areas. A sizeable population of wild Asian Elephants Elephas maximus occurs in the Sanctuary, Reserved Forest and adjacent areas (Choudhury 1999). Other notable animals are: Tiger Panthera tigris, Leopard P. pardus, Clouded Leopard Neofelis nebulosa, Leopard Cat Prionailurus bengalensis, Jungle Cat F. chaus, Fishing Cat F. viverrinus, Wild Dog Cuon alpinus, Himalayan Black Bear Ursus thibetanus, Sloth Bear Merursus ursinus, Hoolock Gibbon Hylobates hoolock, Slow Loris Nycticebus coucang, Capped Langur Trachypithecus pileata, Rhesus Macaque Macaca mulatta, Sambar Cervus unicolor, Barking Deer Muntiacus muntjak, Gaur Bos frontalis, Binturong Arctictis binturong, and Malayan Giant Squirrel Ratufa bicolor.

Among reptiles, Asian Leaf Turtle Cyclemis dentata, Common Monitor Lizard Varanus bengalensis, and Water Monitor Lizard V. salvator were recorded in the area. The snakes, Indian Rock Python Python molurus, King Cobra Ophiophagus hannah, Banded Krait Bungarus fasciatus, Common Krait B. caeruleus, Buffstriped Keelback Amphiesma stolata and Vipers such as Green or Bamboo Pit Viper Trimeresurus gramineus, have been recorded (Choudhury 1998).

Populations of IBA trigger species

Species Season Period Population estimate Quality of estimate IBA Criteria IUCN Category
White-rumped Vulture Gyps bengalensis non-breeding  2004  present  A1  Critically Endangered 
Slender-billed Vulture Gyps tenuirostris non-breeding  2004  present  A1  Critically Endangered 
Wood Snipe Gallinago nemoricola winter  2004  present  A1  Vulnerable 
Rufous-necked Hornbill Aceros nipalensis resident  2004  present  A1  Vulnerable 

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%) moderate to rapid 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%) slow but significant deterioration low
Natural system modifications dams & water management/use - dams (size unknown) happening now small area/few individuals (<10%) no or imperceptible deterioration low
Residential and commercial development housing and urban areas happening now small area/few individuals (<10%) moderate to rapid deterioration low
Transportation and service corridors roads and railroads happening now small area/few individuals (<10%) no or imperceptible deterioration low

Protected areas

Protected area Designation Area (ha) Relationship with IBA Overlap with IBA (ha)  
Nongkhyllem Sanctuary 2,900 is identical to site 2,900  


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

Land use

Land-use Extent (% of site)
energy production and mining -
Notes: Power generation
forestry -
Notes: Forest
nature conservation and research -
Notes: Wetland and grassland

Acknowledgements Key contributors: Anwaruddin Choudhury and Kulojyoti Lahkar.


Ali, S. and Ripley, S. D. (1987) Compact Handbook of the Birds of India and Pakistan (Second Edition). Oxford University Press, Delhi.

Baker, E. C. S. (1907) Birds of the Khasi Hills, 2 parts. J. Bombay Nat. Hist. Soc. 17: 783-795; 957-975.

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

Champion, H. G. and Seth, S. K. (1968) A Revised Survey of the Forest types of India. Government of India, New Delhi.

Choudhury, A. U. (1998): Birds of Nongkhyllem wildlife sanctuary and adjacent areas. The Rhino Foundation for Nature in NE India. Guwahati. 31 pp + map.

Choudhury, A. U. (1999). Status and conservation of the Asian elephant Elephas maximus in north-eastern India. Mammal Review 29(3): 141-173.

Choudhury, A. U. (2002). Major inland wetlands of north-eastern India. A report submitted to SACON Coimbatore. 49pp, incl. maps, plates.

Hume, A. O. (1888) The Birds of Manipur, Assam, Sylhet and Cachar. Stray Feathers 11 (1-4): 1-353.

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

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