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Location India, West Bengal
Central coordinates 88o 24.75' East  26o 51.57' North
IBA criteria A1, A2, A3
Area 12,772 ha
Altitude 45 - 1,750m
Year of IBA assessment 2004

Bombay Natural History Society

Site description The Mahananda Sanctuary is located on the west bank of River Teesta in the southern part of Darjeeling district in West Bengal. It was declared a sanctuary in 1976 to protect the lower catchment of the Mahanadi river, but till 1988 it was under the control of the Kurseong Forest Division, when it was transferred to the Wild Life Division. The terrain is undulating, with moderate to steep slopes and high ridges towards the north. The hill slopes descend to almost flat stretches of the terai, and alluvial plains towards the south of the IBA. The main entry point of Mahananda WLS is via Sukna, a small village 12 km from Siliguri on the Siliguri-Darjeeling road. National Highway 31 passes through the southern part of the Sanctuary. It is perhaps the largest compact block of forested habitat situated at the western end of the migratory route of the Asian Elephant Elephas maximus. A large waterbody of nearly 1,500 ha, formed after the construction of a barrage on the Teesta, falls in the buffer zone of this Sanctuary. As Mahananda extends across hills as well as plains, the forest types are quite varied. In the hills we see Sal Forest, Dry Mixed Forest and Wet Mixed Forest. In some portions, Sal Shorea robusta forms almost pure stands, with an occasional other species such as Gmelina arborea, Terminalia, Lagerstroemia parviflora, Sterculia villosa and Toona ciliata. The flood plains of rivers are covered with Phragmites karka and Saccharum munja, with scattered Bombax ceiba trees. This habitat is under human pressure and only a few undisturbed patches are left. This is the habitat of Jerdon’s Babbler Chrysomma altirostre and the Bengal Florican Houbaropsis bengalensis. While the former is still reported occasionally, the latter species is probably extinct in this area.

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 
Lesser Kestrel Falco naumanni passage  2004  present  A1  Least Concern 
White-rumped Vulture Gyps bengalensis non-breeding  2004  present  A1  Critically Endangered 
Slender-billed Vulture Gyps tenuirostris non-breeding  2004  present  A1  Critically Endangered 
Bengal Florican Houbaropsis bengalensis resident  2004  present  A1  Critically Endangered 
Rufous-necked Hornbill Aceros nipalensis resident  2004  present  A1  Vulnerable 
Black-breasted Parrotbill Paradoxornis flavirostris resident  2004  present  A1, A2  Vulnerable 
Rusty-bellied Shortwing Brachypteryx hyperythra resident  2004  present  A1, A2  Near Threatened 

Protected areas

Protected area Designation Area (ha) Relationship with IBA Overlap with IBA (ha)  
Mahananda Sanctuary 12,722 is identical to site 12,722  


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

Land use

Land-use Extent (% of site)
agriculture -
Notes: Agriculture
fisheries/aquaculture -
Notes: Aquaculture/Fishing
military -
Notes: Military establishment
nature conservation and research -
Notes: Nature conservation and research
tourism/recreation -
Notes: Tourism and recreation
water management -
Notes: Water management

Acknowledgements Key contributor: Peter Lobo.


Anonymous (undated) The Calcutta Gazette. Government of West Bengal.

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

Grimmett, R., Inskipp, C. and Inskipp, T. (1998) Birds of the Indian Subcontinent. Christopher Helm (Publishers) Ltd., London, U.K.

Lobo, P. (2003) Checklist of birds of Mahananda Wildlife Sanctuary, West Bengal. Unpublished. Pp. 17.

Rahmani, A. R., Narayan, G., Rosalind, L. and Sankaran, R. (1990) Status of the Bengal Florican in India. Pp. 55-78. In: Status and Ecology of the Lesser and Bengal Floricans, with reports on Jerdon’s Courser and Mountain Quail. Final Report. Bombay Natural History Society.

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.

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Recommended citation  BirdLife International (2014) Important Bird Areas factsheet: Mahananda Wildlife Sanctuary. Downloaded from on 20/10/2014

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