The festival of Makar Sankranti is one of the few Hindu festivals that falls on the same day every year according to the Gregorian calendar.It signifies the end of the winters and the heralding of spring.Widely celebrated around India, the rituals followed on this include exchanging of sweets made from sesame and jaggery and the flying of kites The gods who have slumbered for six months are have awakened and the kites are flown to the portals of heaven that are now open.
This idyllic festival can have lethal connotations for birds, however as kite strings (also called manjha) are often heavily coated with powdered glass to give the kite fliers an advantage in their fiercely fought battles. The strings can be so sharp that people flying kites often bandage their hands to prevent injuries. Another threat that has recently been added is the introduction of "Chinese manjha" which is made from nylon. The nylon strings are popular as they are fairly cheap and do not degrade. Hence they remain a threat to birds long after the festivities have ended.
The kite flying festivities are enjoyed with vigour in the city of Jaipur with numerous kites dotting the skies for days after. Last year the Jaipur Administration banned the use of Chinese manjha and the flying of kites during the hours that birds are most active. i. e. between 6 to 8 am and 5 to 7pm.
However, it is important that these bans are enforced and adhered to by the public. In order to do this, the project team has started a campaign to reach out to the people of Jaipur to senstize them towards the plight of birds. A special poster for the campaign, designed by the team, was issued by the District Collecter. This poster has already been put up in various schools, colleges and other institutions.
Awareness camps have been set up in two schools so far where the team spoke to the students. Students signed and recited the following pledge:
1). I will not fly kites from 6.00-8.00AM & 5.00-7.00PM .2). I will not buy Chinese manjha.3). I will dispose of leftover manjha in waste bins only.
Students also pledged to remove manjha from at least five trees near their houses.
The campaign team has also set up two bird treatment camps for injured birds in prominent areas of the city.
Street plays were held at popular tourist spots like the Jantar Mantar, the City Palace and the Govind Dev Ji Temple. The plays were performed at times when the footfall in these areas is the highest thereby reaching out to a large number of people. Over 400 people signed the pledge during these plays.
As the festival draws nearer, the campaign is intensifying its activties with peace rallies and candle light vigils. more sensitisation programs have also been initiated around the city.
Whilst the anti snare walks are an integral part of what we do to protect our tigers, it is just as important to us to ensure that the poachers are punished to the fullest extent of the law. We work with the Forest Department in various Tiger Reserves by providing legal assistance as well A Central India legal assistance review meeting was held in Pench Tiger Reserve, Madhya Pradesh, on October 16, 2015. The joint meeting of the Forest Department and Wildlife Trust of India (WTI) was conducted with an aim to strengthen mechanism to ensure that no criminal is let off scot-free and evaluate the legal assistance provided to the forest department on a monthly basis. The meeting was held in the presence of the Field Director, Pench TR; WTI's Regional Head, a WTI Advocate, and external legal advisor and the concerned ACF’s/Range Officers of the Pench TR. WTI has been providing legal assistance to Pench Tiger Reserve by assisting the forest authorities in filing cases comprehensively and also advising them on pending cases from these areas. The aim of the meeting is to prevent crimes against wildlife as per the definitions and provisions of the Wild Life (Protection) Act, 1972; achieve high rate of wildlife crime conviction; and take cognizance of all wildlife cases filed with the help of IFAW-WTI’s legal assistance team in the trial courts. It was decided that a uniform reporting format will be maintained for all the wildlife crime cases and a cumulative list of the wildlife crime cases in Pench Tiger Reserve be prepared. Accordingly, the cases are prioritized on the basis of the seriousness of crime, i.e. schedule, seizure and category. They should then be dealt accordingly. During the course of the meeting, the participants also discussed how to reduce the delay in getting the update from the newly formed courts to increase efficacy. It was agreed that the above mentioned decisions taken in the meeting will be implemented at the earliest. This will steer a way towards the desired goals of ensuring high percentage/level of conviction of the wildlife criminals. Further, a meeting will be held in another three months to follow up the implementation of the decision and review the legal assistance under the guidance of the Field Director. Mr Subhoranjan Sen, Field Director, Pench Tiger Reserve, stated in the meeting that it is the primary duty of the forest staff to protect the wildlife and its habitat. To ensure the protection of the wildlife and its habitat, it is important to keep a check on the wildlife crimes happening in and around the Tiger Reserve, which is the primary duty and aim of the Forest Department. Further, he appreciated the legal assistance from WTI and asked the forest staff to take benefit from the same.
Arunachal Pradesh, in North East India is one of the country’s biodiversity hotspots. The once pristine forests boast of a large variety of species, many of which are Threatened, Endangered or close to extinction in wild.
The Adi tribe is a major collective tribe living in the Himalayan hills of the region. They inhabit six districts in Arunachal Pradesh and are the second most populous tribe of the state. Hunting is carried out en masse during the festivals of Dorung in November, Unying or Aran in March and Dishang in January. Weddings are also celebrated with hunts throughout the year.
The Adi Baane Kebang, the Traditional Apex, Appellate & Supreme Council of the Adis is keen to stop these barbaric rituals and wants to sensitize their people to becoming signatories to a resolution banning these hunts. The first phase will address 10 blocks of villages with 66 villages divided across each block.
Three sensitisation camps have already been held in the blocks of Mebo, Ruksin and Monku with a total of 21 villages addressed. The leaders of the Adi Baane Kebang addressed the villagers stating the need to conserve the environment. The Divisional Forest Officer of Pasighat also appealed to the people to stop their mass hunting practices, highlighting the many endemic and endangered species found in the region. Local leaders and few village heads also known as gaon burrahs also expressed their views supporting the resolution to ban all hunting. The interactive sessions were then followed by the gaon burrahs becoming signatories to the resolution on behalf all the people living in their respective villages.
These first few meetings were such a success, that the Forest Department decided to assist in strengthening the message to stop hunting as well. They arranged for 50 of the village heads to go on a trip to Kaziranga National Park to learn to appreciate the abundant beauty that is right on their doorstep. The trip was an triumph with the gaon burrahs slowly beginning to realise the potential benefits that this biodiversity can bring them. They also visited WTI's Centre for Wildlife Rehabilitation and Conservation (CWRC) to learn more about the work people are doing to conserve wildlife in their region.
Eco tourism in the region is picking up with homestays and guided tours gradually becoming the norm. The Forest Department has also stressed the benefits of this to the village heads and they are beginning to learn that their people can earn their living without harming the forest and its wildlife.
Please join us in wishing the Adi tribespeople luck in their ventures to protect their wildlife.