Nongkhyllem Wildlife Sanctuary
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).
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