There is a quiet change taking place in Arunachal Pradesh. Not big, but quite important. Pakke Tiger Reserve lies in South Western Arunachal Pradesh and is home to several Nyishi tribal villages. Late one morning in December 2011, a group of nine tribal headmen representing their villages, the dynamic Nyishi District Forest Officer (DFO) Tana Tapi, and researchers from the Nature Conservation Foundation’s (NCF) had gathered in a community hall. They were kicking off an innovative program – the Hornbill Nest Adoption Program. Starting in January 2012, it is aimed at protecting the slow-breeding hornbills from hunting and habitat loss. But what is novel about it is that it involves the community, a tribe that once used to hunt the hornbills. Hornbills have been traditionally hunted by the Nyishis for its beak/casque and meat. The upper beak/casque of the Great hornbill was used traditionally in the Nyishi headgear, called a Podum. Their headgear is now made of fiberglass.
NCF’s program employs these local tribal leaders to watch hornbill nests during the nesting seasons. Deforestation and hunting have traditionally threatened most of the hornbill species here. Since 2002 hunting has declined, thanks in large part to the cooperation from the Nyishi communities around Pakke driven by the untiring efforts of the DFO Tana Tapi. But deforestation still means fewer trees with nest holes increased competition between the hornbills. Long-term nest watching involving the communities themselves would likely stem these trends and protect hornbills.
The three-way partnership between NCF, the Nyishi community and the Forest Department promises to yield a strong conservation success story in Pakke.
Click here to know more about the Hornbill Nest Adoption Program.