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. Intrinsically linked to this verdant landscape are the state’s indigenous tribes. These tribes have traditionally hunted wildlife for their meat, fur, beaks, feathers etc. This hunting takes a significant toll on the populations of protected species like the Asiatic black bear, capped langur and Assamese Macaque. Wildlife in Arunachal Pradesh is affected by threats from both anthropogenic and natural factors.
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. Primarily a rice farming community and subsistence hunters, their traditions include mass ritual hunting during festive occasions. 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. Bride prices are often settled in squirrels and other similar species.
The Adi Baane Kebang (ABK) is the Traditional Apex, Appellate & Supreme Council of the Adis .The Kebang regulates and formulates the laws of the Adi community. It is, in essence, a democratic council where village elders automatically become a part of the council and all members of the community strictly adhere to resolutions passed by the ABK. The Adi Baane Kebang is also extremely proactive when it comes to conserving wildlife. On hearing this from the Forest Department, we wanted to know what we could do to help.
A few emails and phone calls later, we were pleasantly surprised when the Secretary of the ABK paid us a visit at our Headquarters and expressed their eagerness to stop the ritual hunting that has long been a part of their traditions. He explained that the ABK was firmly resolved to ensure that the pristine forests belonging to the Adi tribe are preserved for generations to come. To this end, a resolution has been included in the Adi Customary Laws to ban hunting in its entirety. Whilst the resolution has been passed, the ABK realises that change must come from within the community itself for any bans on hunting to be effective and enforced. The tribes' people now need to be be made aware about the new laws so that they stop hunting and ensure the ban is strictly enforced.
A couple of extremely interesting discussions later, we have a plan chalked out. The Adi villages have been divided into blocks, all 162 of them. The Adi Baane Kebang will hold meetings with all the villagers in each block with the gaon burrahs or village heads as principal attendees. The importance of conserving the forests and wildlife will be explained to their people along with the resolution to ban hunting. The villagers will be encouraged to surrender their guns to the Forest Department, something that has been carried out with great success in the past around the D’Ering Wildlife Sanctuary.
The gaon burrahs will also be given the ability to fine anyone breaking the rules. Money from these fines will go towards the development of the village itself, thus ensuring an incentive to the tribes’ people to nab poachers and protect their lands.
The First Phase of stakeholder meetings in 10 blocks with approximately 60 villages will start as soon as the monsoon is over.
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