Wildlife Sanctuaries and National Parks in Meghalaya

Meghalaya is a state in the north-eastern part of India. It borders Assam to the west, with Bangladesh and Tripura to the south. To its north lies Mizoram and to its east, Manipur. The capital is Shillong which has been a popular tourist destination for years as it is also known as 'Scotland of East'.

In addition to being one of the Seven Sister States, Meghalaya is famous for its Wildlife Sanctuaries. One such wildlife sanctuary is Nokrek National Park located near Garo Hills. It was established as a National Parkway back in 1965. It is said to be one of the last remaining virgin tropical rainforests in India and having rich natural flora and fauna.

Wildlife in Meghalaya

Spread over the three districts of Jaintia Hills, Ri-Bhoi and East Khasi Hills in Meghalaya. The Meghalaya Forest Department protects the flora & fauna of these sanctuaries through their wildlife protection laws.

Animals found here are the Black Panther, Slow Loris, Capped Langur, Asiatic Elephant, Civet Cat, Gaur etc. Also known as the 'Green Paradise of Shillong' it offers many attractions for both Tourism as well as Research Scholars.

The State's Bird

The Red Junglefowl is the state bird. It is native to South-East Asia with some populations located in Northern India. It has also been introduced into various other parts of the world but has not survived there successfully. Hence the state bird of Meghalaya is found in abundance in this region. It's the most common junglefowl and often mistakenly identified as a gamecock although it cannot be used for cockfights.

The State's Animal

The Golden Langur is one of the rarest primate species found only in India and also in some parts of South-East Asia. It was discovered in 1938 and hence got its name.

It has been declared as an endangered animal by IUCN (International Union for Conservation of Nature). Today, there are less than 2000 Golden Langurs left in the world due to deforestation and hunting. There are two subspecies, i.e., Western Golden langur (Trachypithecus-Aureus) and the Eastern Golden langur (Trachypithecus-Priam).

The Western Golden Langur is found in north-eastern India, mostly in Meghalaya. Once widespread in this region it is now found only at Nokrek Biosphere Reserve near Garo Hills. The Eastern Golden Langur which is native to Bangladesh, Bhutan, northern Burma, China, northern India and Vietnam has a much wider distribution. It's an endangered species due to deforestation and hunting. Thus, both these subspecies can be seen together at Nokrek Biosphere Reserve.

Though they both inhabit trees, they differ considerably in one important aspect: Golden Langurs live together in small social groups consisting of only females and young ones along with one male leader whereas Rhesus Macaques can be seen in large troops comprising of multiple males, females and their young ones. The Golden Langur eats fruit and leaves but forages on the ground too while Rhesus Macaques eat almost all sorts of food that can be obtained from a forest including vegetation, insects and small vertebrates such as lizards and rodents.

The State's arboreal Old-World Monkeys

Both are arboreal Old-World Monkeys with long tails that are covered with hair. The hair on the front of their bodies is typically golden-yellow for males and pale brownish-white to cream for females, while the backs are a darker shade of brown. Males have a dark black face with a white blaze running down from between their eyes including a patch under the eyes, which turns pink during the mating season. Females have a grey face without any blaze or patches. Both have large cheek pouches to store food.

The State's Porcupine

Porcupine (Erethizon dorsatum) is another unique animal found in Meghalaya. It's one of the Old-World porcupines found only in Asia. It has been declared as Near Threatened by IUCN (International Union for Conservation of Nature). This interesting animal is known for its defence mechanism against predators i.e., it rolls itself into a ball that is very difficult to unroll.

It's a nocturnal animal and likes eating roots, bark, small invertebrates, fruits, vegetables and cultivated crops. It creates burrows for shelter using its strong forelimbs and sharp claws. In Meghalaya, it can be found in the East Khasi hills only at Mawphlang sacred grove.

The State Forest Animal

Slow Loris (Nycticebus coucang) is the state forest animal of Meghalaya. Nycticebus means night monkey while coucang is Malay for slow-moving which refers to their movement speed. These animals are also known as pottos from their scientific name which comes from combining two Greek words i.e., 'nyx' meaning night and 'trema' meaning hole.

Slow Loris is a primate belonging to the family Lorisidae. In Meghalaya, it can be found in East Jaintia Hills at Mawphlang sacred grove near the State Animal, Porcupine's habitat. Being nocturnal, they are also active during dawn and dusk periods. These shy animals live inside holes and come out only when it's dark. They feed on small invertebrates, fruits and flower nectar which they collect with their extremely long arms reaching up to the toes of their hind legs!

They're covered by soft fur which varies from brownish-black to grey-white along with pale coloured rings around the eyes. This species has a round head with small ears, close-set eyes and a tubular nose. The slow loris is the only venomous primate; it secretes venom from glands on the upper surface of its arms to protect itself from predators such as snakes. However, this venom can also prove fatal for humans if not treated in time!

The State's Hornbill

Hornbill (Buceros bicornis) is one of the largest among Indian hornbills and found in Meghalaya, Assam and Arunachal Pradesh. It's an omnivorous bird that lives in dense rainforest areas eating fruits, insects, small animals and occasionally even eggs of small birds. A group of hornbills is known as a parliament. They live in holes of tall trees and breed during the summer months.

The State Water Animal

Irrawaddy Dolphin (Orcaella brevirostris) is the state water animal of Meghalaya. It's found in almost all the major rivers in the region but very little in number. This dolphin species prefers to live near the mouths of large rivers, estuaries, deltas, bays and lagoons. Being warm-blooded it can live even in cold waters at depths up to 100 metres. The best place to find them in Meghalaya is the Siju sanctuary near Garo hills where they are fully protected by law.

The State Amphibian

Asian Tree Frog (Polypedates leucomystax) is the state amphibian of Meghalaya. This small frog is mainly found in the evergreen forests and wet grasslands of Khasi hills. It can survive even with a very less amount water as its skin allows it to absorb water directly from the atmosphere.

It's a nocturnal animal spending most of its day inside holes or under rocks and comes out at night time for hunting. Polypedates leucomystax starts breeding during monsoon season laying eggs on moist ground, vegetation and aquatic plants. The male frogs call during the mating season using their vocal sacks which are located under their throats. They stay close to each other during the mating season forming small groups.

State Poisonous Snake

Wroughton's Viper (Daboia russelii siamensis) is the state poisonous snake of Meghalaya. It's also known as Russel's viper and belongs to the family Viperidae which includes all venomous snakes in India. This species can be found only in the East Khasi Hills region, Meghalaya among dense temperate or subtropical forests.

The viper is a nocturnal animal spending most of its day inside holes under rocks or tree trunks before coming out at night time for hunting. These are amongst the world's deadliest snakes because they prey on warm-blooded animals including humans. The venom of the snake is a powerful neurotoxin that causes respiratory paralysis and often proves fatal for humans.

The State Floral Emblem

Khasi Tree ('Griselinia jenkinsiana') is the state floral emblem of Meghalaya. It can be found in East Jaintia Hills, West Khasi Hills and many other parts of Meghalaya. Griselinia jenkinsiana or Khasi tree belongs to the family Elaeocarpaceae and has white flowers with long petals. Its fruits are blackberries which turn into blue-grey colour when ripened. This fruit named 'Soop' has medicinal properties and can cure urinary problems, stomach disorders, anthrax and snake poison.

The State Endangered Bird

Blyth's Tragopan (Tragopan blythii) is the state bird of Meghalaya and a critically endangered species found in Khasi hills. It belongs to the family Phasianidae of land fowls which have been evolved from Galliformes during the Miocene period almost 18-20 million years ago. There are two main subspecies of Tragopans, one can be found in Eastern parts of the Himalayas and another in Western parts. These birds get the name 'tragopan' due to their walking style resembling that of goat ('Gope' means goat in Assamese), also call like goats making deep guttural 'gaaa' sounds.

Tragopans are famous for their puffed throat sacs and metallic colouring around the neck area which glows in the sunlight. These birds spend most of their day inside forests but come to open grasslands during dawn and dusk hours to feed on various types of leaves. A single male Tragopan can eat hundred different species of plants and is thus officially declared as a 'Plant Slayer'. The best place to find them in Meghalaya is Nokrek Biosphere Reserve near Garo hills where they are fully protected by law.

State Animal Hoolock Gibbon

Hoolock Gibbon (Hoolock hoolock) is another state animal of Meghalaya. It belongs to the family Hylobatidae of lesser apes and is the only ape found in India. These gibbons are known for their loud hooting sounds during nights at regular intervals. The hoolock gibbon population has become very small now mostly because of habitat loss, deforestation, fragmentation etc.

The Hoolock Gibbon can be easily distinguished from other apes by its white eyebrows, pinkish face skin and white beard-like hair on the upper parts of its body. Their shoulders are also covered with long hair which makes them really attractive among tourists visiting Meghalaya. They only eat fruits, leaves and insects but sometimes hunt small birds for food. This nocturnal animal spends most of its day high up in trees and always keeps on changing the branches for sleeping.

Wildlife Sanctuaries in Meghalaya

Khasi Hills Wildlife Sanctuaries

There are four wildlife sanctuaries in the Khasi Hills of Meghalaya protecting the state animal Hoolock Gibbon, State Flower Griselinia jenkinsiana or Khasi tree and State Bird Tragopan blythii. Read more

Jaintia Hills Wildlife Sanctuaries

There are two wildlife sanctuaries in the Jaintia Hills of Meghalaya. East Jaintia Hills Wildlife Sanctuaries is the joint name given to three wildlife sanctuaries located in the East Jaintia Hills district of Meghalaya. These include Banasura Sagar Dam Wildlife Sanctuary, Nokrek Biosphere Reserve and Siju Cave Wildlife Sanctuary. Read more

Garo Hills Wildlife Sanctuaries

Garo Hills Wildlife Sanctuaries are famous for their population of wild pigs, goats and sambar deers. This wildlife sanctuary is best visited during the winter months when the weather remains moderate and cloudy days are common.

There are several wildlife sanctuaries and national parks located in Meghalaya, but the most popular among them are Nokrek National Park, Balphakram National Park, Nongkhyllem Wildlife Sanctuary, East Khasi Hills Wildlife Sanctuary etc. Besides these places there are many other tourist spots worth seeing your visit to Meghalaya, so book your package for Meghalaya today!