MAJULI - FAUNA
The influence of the Neo-Vaishnavite culture on the island which restricts killing animals has resulted in great tolerance for wildlife and respect for the environment. The Majuli island presents an example of a symbiotic relation between nature and culture traditionally provides a congenial environment for the protection of all life forms.
The Majuli island with its fertile floodplains and highly productive wetlands forms the ideal habitat for a variety of birds. It not only supports the resident birds but also attracts a large number of migratory birds including some uncommon species. More than 250 species of birds have been recorded. These include historic records of many endangered species. The Majuli island has more than 20 reptiles, more than 20 species of mammals, nearly 10 species of amphibians, thousands of insects and lesser forms and more than 100 types of fish. A site survey has been conducted for identification of diverse form of flora and fauna of the Majuli island. Data base has been prepared through listing of different flora and fauna available on the island.
So far more than 260 species of birds have been recorded in the island and its surrounding water bodies. These not only include the resident birds which are found round the year or move locally but also many winter migrants from northern latitudes such Tibet and Siberia. At least 90 winter migrants have been identified including some passage migrants. At least 13 (22 likely as many were recorded from adjacent areas and could occur in Majuli) globally 'threatened' and five (10 likely) 'near-threatened' species were recorded in Majuli. Some threatened species (Bird Life International, 2001) such as the Spot billed Pelican Pelecanus philippinus, Slenderbilled Vulture Gyps tenuirostris, White-backed Vulture G. bengalensis, Greater Adjutant-Stork Leptoptilos dudius and Lesser Adjutant-Stork L. javanicus also breed in Majuli.
At least eight 'Flyways' have been defined in the world for the migratory birds, especially wading birds. For ducks also, these act as flyways (Flyways are broad corridors or migration routes used by migrating birds). A major flyway known as 'the Central Asia/Indian Flyway' covers part of the subcontinent that also includes Assam. The Brahmaputra River and its long valley stretching from Sadiya to Dhubri is a major route of migratory birds within the 'Central Asia/Indian Flyway'. While the winter visitors' use this flyway to come to Majuli, many fly across to the sea boards. These birds are called 'passage migrants'. These passage migrants, mostly sea shore birds use Majuli for resting and stop over along their migration route during their arrival in September-October and return in March- April.
Most of the wintering waterfowl throng the beels, channels and ghulis and the main Brahmaputra River. These birds arrive in September-October while after spending the winter in and around Majuli depart by March - April. Small numbers may remain till early part of May. A few migratory species, however, come for breeding during winter. Pallas's Fish Eagle Haliaeetus leucoryphus, which is regarded as a globally threatened bird of prey breeds in small numbers in Majuli.
A large number of smaller birds such as warblers, leaf warblers, chats, thrushes, wagtails (locally known as Balimahi) and pipits also winter in Majuli. These birds affect a diverse habitat ranging from countryside to scrub jungle and grassland. Many warblers and leaf warblers are also difficult to identify in the field and hence, often overlooked but they add to the diversity of migratory species. There are also some summer migratory species, mainly cuckoos (locally called Keteki), which are known for their melodious songs.