Your support over the past few years has not only bettered conservation work, but has also boosted the morale of many individuals working for the same. We are ever thankful to you for that. Hunting of wildlife is one threat that has drastically lowered the population size of several species. Wildlife Trust of India (WTI) has been working on this issue since quite some time now. This month, we take you to the North Eastern corner of the country, a landscape that is regarded as a biodiversity hotspot. A region dominated with tribes, the flora and fauna of the area often fall prey to their traditional practices.
Shergaon, a small pristine village tucked in the valley of Eaglenest Wildlife Sanctuary (EWLS) and bordered by the Chhoskhrong, Nati & Doblo rivers, lies in West Kameng district of Arunachal Pradesh. In continuation with the Eaglenest Wildlife sanctuary, nearly 85% of this village is covered by thick temperate forests with a unique biodiversity of flora and fauna. The valleys of Shergaon and Rupa are largely inhabited by the community of Sherdukpens. This closely knit tribe is believed to have migrated from Tibet and follow a mix religion of ancient Bon and Buddhism.
Like most of Arunachal Pradesh, people of Shergaon also largely depend on agriculture and horticultural practices. However, this biodiverse Trans-Himalayan landscape has helped the Sherdukpens develop the unique skill of identifying local flora for medicinal purposes and the art of tracking animals to hunt for self-consumption over the years. The Indian Muntjac (Muntiacus muntjak), Himalayan Ghoral (Naemorhedus goral), Himalayan black bear (Ursus thibetanus laniger), Wild pig (Sus scrofa) are some of the most commonly hunted species in the landscape. Every year during the hunting season at least 10-15 Himalayan Ghoral (Near Threatened as per the IUCN Red List) and Indian Muntjac are hunted for personal consumption.
Over the years the village heads and local organisations have understood the need to slow down the depletion of natural resources and concentrate on conservation initiatives in Shergaon. Thanks to the repeated efforts of local organisation “Garung Thuk”, the village today has introduced some stringent laws such as no commercial logging, no hunting of migratory bird species, reduced usage of pesticide for agricultural practices and other sustainable options which are accepted by the people. As a result, hunting of protected species such as Himalayan black bear and migratory birds like Black Necked crane (Both listed ‘Vulnerable’ on the IUCN Red List of Threatened Species) has considerably reduced. But changing the mind-set of people away from this deep rooted tradition of hunting, has been challenging in the region.
To develop an attitudinal change towards conservation and making use of their unique animal tracking skillset, Wildlife Trust of India supported a three day- exposure visit in January 2019 to Kaziranga National Park for selected individuals of Shergaon and adjoining villages (Thungri and Jigaon). A team of 40 participants (Youth and village council members) were taken for jungle safaris inside the National Park where they witnessed different mammals and birds in their natural surroundings. This was a first time experience for the participants, which helped enlighten them on good wildlife management and eco-tourism benefits for the community. The team also visited WTI’s Centre for Wildlife rehabilitation and Conservation (CWRC) where the in-house veterinarian had an interactive session on the animal rescue operations and the need for proper rehabilitation to release animals back into the wild.
To additionally sharpen their skillset, an intensive two-day Nature guide training was organised in Eaglenest Wildlife Sanctuary along with the Forest Department for selected 22 individuals of Shergaon. EWLS is one of the most renowned birding destinations in India with over 700 species of birds including the prized Ward’s Trogon (Harpactes wardi), Bugun Liocichla (Liocichla bugunorum), Beautiful Nuthatch (Sitta Formosa) and others. With an overlap of fauna and flora between Shergaon and EWLS, the Protected Area provided an excellent landscape for the foundation training. Expert field biologists and Divisional Forest Officer Milo Tasser from the EWLS Forest department briefed the participants on essential nature guiding techniques. The training included both indoor and outdoor sessions on introduction to bird families found in West Kameng and their identification, forest types, how to use and maintain binoculars, usage of field guides and identifying bird calls. The training was very helpful and appreciated by the forest department. DFO Milo Tasser exclaimed, “Training went successfully, 22 participants came, all very enthusiastic and excited but we will have to repeat these trainings atleast twice to keep them motivated”. WTI will also be equipping the trainees with field gear to encourage them on this new path towards conservation of wildlife in Shergaon.
This is a very small segment of our goal that we have been able to accomplish. With your support, we wish to address many other threats that require our attention. To know more about our ongoing projects, do visit our website www.wti.org.in and our social media pages on Twitter, Instagram and Facebook. Your support is our strength.