In an effort to preserve rare and endangered species, the Assam Forest Department has demanded critical wildlife habitat status for the Gibbon Wildlife Sanctuary near Jorhat.

The sanctuary is unique in the sense that though it is very small in area, measuring only 20 square kilometres, it has sheltered a variety of primates.

There are as many as seven species of non-human primates, including the highly endangered hoolock gibbon.

Forest Department sources said there has been frequent attempts to poach them and keeping this in view they had approached the Union Ministry of Forest and Environment to look into the matter by appointing an expert committee.

“If the critical wildlife status is granted to the Gibbon Wildlife Sanctuary, then we will be better equipped to protect the animals and their habitat,” an official said.

The official also revealed that the frequent flood problem had affected the sanctuary and lack of funds prevented them to take efficient steps.

Moreover, lack of proper communication has also prevented tourists from visiting the picturesque sanctuary and deprived the authorities of precious fund.

Citing examples of two world heritage sites, Kaziranga National Park and Manas Tiger Reserve, the officials said though they had been equally affected by flood, development had taken place due to increased revenue from foreign and domestic tourists.

The forest officials have also urged for more funds from international bodies to help them preserve animals.

Having 16 species of wildlife, the sanctuary has been already included in schedule one of the guidelines notifying it as a critical wildlife habitat.

But forest officials believe that declaration of the sanctuary is the first step towards its conservation.

Moreover, apart from the rare hoolock gibbons, the sanctuary also boasts of another endangered species - white winged wood duck.

In the State the Gibbon wildlife sanctuary is the only one to be selected for granting the status of critical wildlife habitat after it was first declared as wildlife sanctuary in 1997.