Agartala, Feb 6 (IANS) Taking a cue from Nagaland’s world famous annual Hornbill Festival, Tripura government for the first time to hold two-day Hornbill Festival with twin goal – conservation of the striking forest bird “Hornbill” and to boost the livelihood of the people through tourism.
The “Hornbill” festival, named after the Indian hornbill, the large and colourful forest bird which is displayed in the folklore of most of the tribes among the tribals in northeast India, usually takes place in the first week of December every year since 2000 at Naga heritage village Kisama, about 12 km from Nagaland capital Kohima.
To boost tourism and to conserve nature and to further build up the inter-tribal interaction, Arunachal Pradesh and Manipur also of late started organising the “Hornbill” festival, which has been considered as the “Festival of Festivals” in Nagaland.
India’s northeastern region, comprising eight states, home to 45.58 million people (2011 census), of which 28 per cent are tribals, comprising many tribes and sub-tribes. Tribals depends on agriculture including “Jhum” cultivation (slash and burn method of farming) and therefore most of their festivals revolve around agriculture.
Tripura’s Principal Chief Conservator of Forests Dvijendra Kumar Sharma said that Tripura is on the forefront of the eco-tourism in the northeastern region, the upcoming two-day “Hornbill” festival from February 8 would serve twin purpose – conservation of the spectacular forest bird “Hornbill” and to boost the livelihood of the people by flourishing tourism.
“The decline in oriental pied hornbill population has been reported mainly due to felling of old and big trees, which decreases the availability of suitable nesting and fruit trees. Conservation efforts such as captive breeding and reintroduction are currently in practice,” Sharma told IANS.
He said that the Hornbill family includes about 55 living species, out of which India is a home to nine species of hornbills, of which two are endemic.
Of the nine species found in India include, Great Hornbill, Malabar Pied Hornbill, Indian Grey Hornbill, Malabar Grey Hornbill, Oriental Pied Hornbill, Rufous Necked Hornbill, Wreathed Hornbill, Austen’s Brown Hornbill and Narcondam Hornbill.
The northeastern region has the highest diversity having five hornbill species. Among them, Oriental Pied Hornbill has a wide range of distribution throughout northeast India, which has a vast forest and wild-life resources with wide range of variety.
Sharma, a renowned and popular author of many important books on biodiversity, forests and wildlife, said : “Hornbills are unique birds, having the horn-like projection called a ‘casque’ on top of their beak. They are larger than other forest birds and are flashy with their over-sized beaks, bright skin around their eyes and long eyelashes.
Most have a brilliantly coloured pouch of loose skin at their throat in which they carry fruits, their favourite food. The family is omnivorous, feeding on fruit and small animals.”
The Hornbills are subject to some hunting pressure (casques are sold as souvenirs and their body fat used in traditional medicines) and are popular as pets in some areas.
Sharma, who is also the Chief Wildlife Warden of Tripura, said that breeding in captivity of has so far shown a high success rate at Sepahijala Zoological Park (in Tripura) under the technical supervision of an experienced staff.
“Similar approach may be undertaken in the wild by providing artificial nest boxes (hollow tree logs having specific design), as an alternative breeding site in order to support their breeding requirements in the wild.
Its natural habitat is subtropical or tropical moist lowland forests. The oriental pied hornbill’s diet includes fruit, insects, shellfish, small reptiles and sometimes small mammals and birds including their eggs.
Like other hornbill species oriental pied hornbill is also monogamous and they typically commence breeding in February. This coincides with the onset of rain depending on geographical location, and peak abundance of fruits.”
The senior Indian Forest Service (IFS) officer said that the Hornbill festival would promote eco-tourism in a big way besides creating awareness towards Hornbill birds, promoting local culture and strengthening local communities.
“This festival would enlarge scope of livelihood support to local communities through enhanced opportunities in the eco-tourism. The opportunities in hospitality sector especially nature interpretation and nature guide, boarding and lodging, transport facility can create win-win situation for both eco-tourist, who gets a life time experience of staying with nature in the state, and the local communities, who gets livelihood opportunities.
However, caution is to be exercised in terms of carrying capacity of the natural areas, so that these areas are sustainable mutually with living of local communities.”
According to the PCCF, conservation of Hornbill is a symbolic over arching representation of conservation initiatives for wildlife in Tripura and other northeastern states.
The location of Baramura eco-park (in western Tripura) and the presence of Oriental Pied Hornbills in the area, has encouraged celebration of first-ever Hornbill festival on February 8-9.
The festival would also focus on conservation of Hornbill besides showcasing the bio-diversity in the state.
According to Sharma, the festival itinerary include technical sessions on conservation of bio-diversity in the state, access and benefit sharing fair, folk dance, skit, drama on nature conservation besides academic discussions.