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Sun, 17 Dec 2017

Northeast Today

From Poachers to Protectors

From Poachers to Protectors
December 07
15:40 2017

November Edition, Conservation, Sisir

Hunting was a part of the traditions of various tribes of Northeast India since time immemorial. But with the change of time, these traditions have also died out. However, a much greater evil took its place during the modern time – Poaching. Hunting wild animals and birds, especially exotic ones, for their meat, skin, feathers etc. gradually became very common. Due to the high demands in the international markets and the lack of proper education in the far flung areas of Northeast, poaching became rampant over the years. The wildlife has suffered a lot because of this and it won’t be wrong if we say that several animals have reached the doors of extinction as well. To combat this illegal wildlife trade, some urgent and drastic action was necessary.

And the expected drastic change came from the most unexpected of places and people. From being dreaded poachers once, some people reshaped themselves into conservationists. There are many such stories across the globe. Out of them, a few noteworthy projects are taking place in our very own northeast India. And special mentions have to be made about Arunachal Pradesh and Nagaland. Over a period of time, many poachers have transpired into protectors of the wild.

A few kilometres from Sijosa in Arunachal Pradesh, there is the beautiful Pakke Wildlife Sanctuary & Tiger Reserve (Western Arunachal Pradesh), harbouring many species of flora and fauna that are globally threatened. As the name suggests, the highlights of this reserve are tigers. Yes, tiger sightings are an important attraction and aspect at the Pakke Wildlife Sanctuary, but these days the sanctuary is more in news for the transition of several individuals from dreaded poachers to protectors of the hornbills.

The transformation took place when some of the poachers decided to let go their old ways, which had been continuing over generations, and work for the conservation and preservation of these beautiful species. The will to protect wildlife led to the formation of Nature Conservation Foundation (NCF). The main goal of this NGO is to contribute to the knowledge and conservation of India’s unique wildlife heritage with innovative research and imaginative solutions. They work in a range of wildlife habitats, from coral reefs and tropical rainforests to the high mountains of the Himalayas. They are also helping in the protection and documentation of the hornbills and their nests across 14 villages located on the fringe areas of the park.

This shift from being a ‘foe to a friend’ came with its own set of challenges as these former poachers were poaching to feed their families and it was their only source of income. Fortunately, the NGO started paying stipends to them and also helped the families in generating income. Though less, the amount was manageable for these families with austere lifestyles. The forest department and other NGOs also helped them for alternative livelihood generation.

These initiatives led to the development of an eco-friendly accommodation facility in their premises. The guides undertook bird watching expeditions and jungle trekking facilities under their expert guidance. This region is, now, also famous for butterflies which have been attracting lots of photographers and enthusiasts.

Their flagship programme of NCF in Arunachal Pradesh is the Hornbill Nest Adoption Programme (HNAP). Coordinated by Tajik Tachang, this project has helped in bringing in a lot of participation from enthusiasts from faraway places. In this programme people can pay a mere amount of Rs 6000 and adopt a hornbill nest for one year. After adoption they will send all the details of the birds, chicks (if any), the health and other relevant details along with photographs to anyone who participates in the programme.

The members of the NGO have divided the place into zones and they patrol those areas themselves either alone or in a team of two. They trek their designated areas and monitor the birds during the season to document their behaviour and other details. During the off seasons, they look after the nests of the birds.This small amount enables the small group of people involved in the NGO to run their families so that they can take rounds in the forests. Once a while, national and international organisations help them with necessary equipments that are required for their work.

It can be said that, this mutual conservancy system is not a compromise but an option that can help in ensuring growth and prosperity alongside saving our treasured fauna.

(The author is a Guwahati-based travel freak, foodie, and a wildlife enthusiast) 

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