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Sunabeda Wildlife Sanctuary

Sunabeda Wildlife Sanctuary is a proposed tiger reserve located in the Nuapada district of Odisha, adjoining Chhattisgarh. It has a total area of 500 km2. The sanctuary harbours a great diversity of wildlife habitats, with a vast plateau and canyons with 11 waterfalls. The sanctuary forms the catchment area of the Jonk River, over which a dam has been constructed to facilitate irrigation. The Indra nullah lies to the south and Son River to the west of the sanctuary. The important vegetation of the site comprises dry deciduous tropical forest.

Wild Orissa’s Sunabeda Tiger Conservation Programme is going on since 1997. As part of this programme special emphasis has been laid upon tiger conservation in the forests of Sunabeda-Khariar in the Nuapara district of Orissa constitute a vital tiger habitat. The last census in 2002 put the tiger population in the 600 km2. Sunabeda Sanctuary itself at about 24 individuals. In addition, the neighbouring Khariar forests, measuring about 450 km2., also support a few tigers. Together, these forests harbour a reasonably large tiger gene pool, with long term conservation potential. A compact patch of about 1,000 km2. could be earmarked for the Sunabeda Tiger Reserve.

Also of interest is the movement of the extremely rare wild buffalo, Bubalus bubalis in the area. These wild bovines enter Orissa from the Udanti and Sitanadi forests in Chhattisgarh. Given that this species is on the verge of extinction in central India, protecting Sunabeda is of vital national importance.

The forests of the Sunabeda Sanctuary are sparsely populated, a rarity in today’s India. Three rivers and 11 major streams provide plentiful water sources. Sunabeda assumes even more importance when one considers that it is contiguous with the Udanti and Sitanadi forests in Chhattisgarh state to the west. If Sunabeda and Khariar are also given Project Tiger status, a large and extremely viable tiger habitat would be safeguarded

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