After Nagaland, another Northeastern state Arunachal Pradesh is determined to provide protection and sanctuary to the birds and wild animals even as the tribals traditionally hunt them for centuries.
Arunachal Pradesh Environment and Forests Minister Mama Natung said that responding to the government appeal so far 680 airguns and a few rifles have been voluntarily surrendered by the people and they willingly vowed not to hunt birds and animals.
“Those who are surrendering airguns and rifles, the government is giving them encouraging certificates. We are considering framing suitable policies to give some support to those people who would be affected after depositing airguns and rifles to the government,” Natung told IANS over phone.
The Arunachal Pradesh government on March 17 had started the campaign to inspire the people to surrender their airguns and rifles and to shun the hunting of birds and animals.
Since March 17, the Environment and Forests Minister, Chief Minister Pema Khandu, Union Minister for Sports and Youth Affairs Kiren Rijiju, top officials of Environment, Forests and Wildlife Departments have been holding numerous events in the districts and far flung areas to motivate the people to protect the bird, animals and environments.
The minister said that in these events locals came out in large numbers and surrendered their air-guns commonly used to hunt birds and small wild animals.
“The ‘abhiyan’ (campaign) is an initiative of the state government to dissuade hunting and create awareness on ill-effects of killing wildlife.”
Natung said that the tribal people’s lives have long been dependent on wildlife and forests and, “without realising the impact on climate change and global warming, the tribal people indiscriminately cut down forests and kill wildlife.
“Now is the time for us to protect wildlife and stop unabated felling of forest trees, as it has greatly impacted on global warming.”
During one of the programmes at southern Arunachal Pradesh’s Pasighat in East Siang district, the Chief Minister said that the campaign to be successful, if it emerges as a people’s movement and requested all community based organisations to play an active role.
“In earlier days, we hunted for food. But times have changed. We have food available and hunting isn’t a necessity now.
We have witnessed destruction of large areas of paddy fields by pests and insects. The fact that birds control their population cannot be denied. May be, we are guilty of dropping the birds’ population and thus the famine-like situation,” Khandu observed.
He said that the people have to take a pledge “not to eat wild meat” and added that more often than not the urge to hunt emerges from financial needs.
The Chief Minister also raised the issue of traditional hunting during ‘Unying Aran’, a very important festival of the Adis, a tribe among the tribals.
Khandu said that hunting during the festival is an ancient practice and cannot be stopped by any legal or government order but has to be pondered upon by elders and youngsters alike.
Forest and Wildlife officials said that sometimes telescopes were fitted with the airguns to kill birds and small wild animals.
Earlier Nagaland had started massive campaign to provide sanctuary to the birds especially the ‘Amar falcons’, known to be one of the world’s longest-distance migratory birds as they travel up to a staggering 22,000 km a year.
Tribals of all communities have positively responded to the government and environmentalists’ appeal and now the killing of birds in Nagaland has become a history.
Official notifications of Nagaland government said that ‘Amur Falcons’ are protected under the Wildlife Protection Act, 1972. As such, hunting, trapping, killing or selling of Amur Falcons could lead to three years of imprisonment or a fine of Rs 25,000 or both under Section 51 of the said Act.
A recent official release said that some instances of hunting, trapping and killing of Amur Falcons in Mon District have been reported and therefore all administrative officials and Village Councils under Mon district have been directed to give wide publicity in their respective jurisdictions and strictly enforce this order along with Police and Forest departments.
“NGOs and civil societies are wholeheartedly cooperating with the forest department and wildlife division to shelter the birds,” Nagaland’s Forest and Wildlife officials said adding that adequate numbers of forest protection personnel were deployed in different lakes, water reservoirs and forest areas to protect the birds.
According to the officials and villagers, thousands of Amur falcons had come to Nagaland during the winter season and subsequently gone to South Africa and other countries.
In certain years the number of migratory birds crossed one million.
Few years back, mountainous Nagaland scripted a success story in safeguarding the migratory birds with the joint teamwork of locals, the state forest department and NGOs.
The initiative won accolades from the United Nations Environment Programme.
Earlier, Amur falcons were killed indiscriminately in the Doyang reserve forest areas and other places of the state. Since 2013, due to a massive campaign, the villagers at different places have refrained from killing these birds.
The Amur falcon (Falco amurensis) is a small raptor of the falcon family. It breeds in southeastern Siberia and Northern China before migrating in large flocks across India and over the Arabian Sea to winter in South Africa.
Forest and Wildlife officials said that India, as a signatory to the Convention of Migratory Species, is duty-bound to stop the indiscriminate killing and provide safe passage.
“Naga people are traditionally known for their love for meat and animal products. In 2012, around 140,000 birds were killed. But, with the community’s positive response to the intensive joint initiative of the forest department and NGOs, we successfully saved most of the birds last year,” said a senior Nagaland forest official.
“Carrying out a statewide massive awareness campaign involving teachers and school children, during the past few years with the community’s all out help yielded success in protecting the birds,” the official told IANS refusing to be quoted.
Besides abundant forests, mountains and greenery, the Northeast region, which consists of 8 per cent of country’s total geographical area, has huge number of lakes, water bodies, ponds, rivers, rivulets and reservoirs facilitating sanctuary and habitations to millions of birds, including the migratory birds with hundreds of species.
(Sujit Chakraborty can be contacted at email@example.com)