Khonoma, April 20 (EMN): Nagaland has about 50% of the world’s dwindling population of Blyth’s Tragopan and therefore it is the responsibility of the State’s forest department and the local community as well to see that the pheasant is protected and conserved.
Making this observation at an awareness programme on conservation of Blyth’s Tragopan in Khonoma today, Wildlife Trust of India (WTI) chief ecologist from Noida, Rahul Kaul pointed out that the Blyth’s Tragopan is a threatened species globally. Stating that it is the State bird, he urged upon greater role of the people towards its conservation.
He highlighted about a study carried out by a team of WTI, of which he was a part, in some parts of northeast states including Nagaland, on distribution of the species. Kaul said the density of pheasants in Nagaland were high in Fakim, Satoi, Khonoma, Tsuruhu, Vongtsuvong and Thanamir. He remarked that besides Fakim, which is a protected area under the state’s forest department, the rest of the areas were protected and conserved by the communities.
Acknowledging the will of the local populace towards its conservation, Kaul asserted, “The presence of these birds in these community forests is a testimony to the fact that the people want to conserve.”
WTI official also explained that with the help of stakeholders- communities involved in conservation and their volunteers and forest department- an action plan was prepared for the conservation of Blyth’s Tragopan. He said the plans were prepared basically as participatory in approach on four major pillars- Acknowledgement and learning from the knowledge and awareness of the communities; Livelihood enrichment and diversification, by arranging alternative livelihood to the people diverting their dependence from forests is reduced; Habitat protection and enforcement, engaging the people who actually protect the forests and converting their efforts to benefit the community; and Ownership by the people and sustainability of the conservation plan for posterity.
He underscored that any plan for conservation, unless it is target-driven while also beneficial to the people, cannot succeed.
Kaul also highlighted the challenges of conservation (or captive) breeding programme done to augment and support conservation needs. While pointing out that the objective of conservation breeding programmes is to produce enough birds in captivity to release back into the wild, he however said that it is extremely difficult to produce chicks and to keep them survive until they are released into the natural habitat.
Touching briefly on lessons learned from past experiences, the official asserted on the need for the department to take up conservation breeding on a project-mode where continuity of staff is ensured, while also assuring that the WTI would endeavour to raise funds for this plan so it is implemented soon.
Principal Chief Conservator of Forests (PCCF) & Head of Forest Force (HoFF) Nagaland, Rajat S Pal, in his address, admitted on the difficulties faced by the department in the funding aspect.
“This is an issue which, honestly speaking, there is no answer to it. We are a State which is cash-strapped and funding patterns to the wildlife sector by the Government of India has been reduced drastically under the new dispensation. So expecting funds- ‘you give me funds or I won’t protect’, that attitude has to change,” Pal lamented.
On sustaining conservation efforts, the PCCF said “it is easy to say but very difficult to put into action.” Towards this end, he underscored the need for the people to realise that they have to conserve, be it the tragopan or any other animal species, so that something is left behind for the future generations. “It is this driving force we have to adopt,” he stated.
State chief wildlife warden, Satya Prakash Tripathi presented a power point on Blyth’s Tragopan captive breeding efforts at the Tragopan Conservation & Breeding Centre, Kohima.
Nagaland has been designated as the coordinating zoo for conservation breeding of the endangered Blyth’s Tragopan for the entire country. The Old Kohima Zoological Park, which was converted to Tragopan Conservation & Breeding Centre in 2012, is being funded by the Central Zoo Authority of India (CZA), and is acclaimed to be the only known dedicated conservation and breeding centre for the Blyth’s Tragopan in the world.
During the programme, Nagaland University associate professor, Dr. Sapu Changkija, highlighted on the distribution pattern, food habit and vulnerability of Blyth’s Tragopan in the State.
In her brief address, Secretary for Environment, Forest & Climate Change, Imtienla, said Nagas are fortunate to have rich forests and lands that were hard earned by their forefathers. Highlighting that forests thrive because of the presence of wildlife, she therefore said wildlife needs to be conserved. She also pointed that even if the people do not work very hard to take care of their forests, the cycle of nature such as pollination, seeds dispersal through birds and animals’ droppings etc. keep the forests rejuvenated. Breaking it down in simple words, she said, it is important to protect the wildlife including the Tragopan.
She acknowledged the Khonoma village for spearheading the conservation movement and encouraged the villagers to maintain their efforts and uphold the reputation so that others may emulate their footsteps.
Dr. H Inato Zhimomi from Tsuruhu village under Zunheboto district, who spoke about the status of Blyth’s tragopan in Satoi area, claimed that Tsuruhu is a goldmine for tragopan and biodiversity. He explained that the village community has dedicated a tragopan sanctuary in its forest since 2003. Since then, he said, the village has banned hunting of tragopan and Hoolock Gibbon within the 10-20 sq km of its reserve forest even during open season. He estimated the number of Blyth’s tragopan in the area as many as 140-200. Stating that so far the village has been conserving within its own means, he urged the forest department to provide assistance and also to explore the potentiality to convert the area into a state/national level sanctuary.
Khonoma Nature Conservation & Tragopan Sanctuary advisor, Tsilie Sakhrie and Bhutan Glory Eco-club Fakim member, Tsuseki Yim and DFO Phek, Rongsenlemla Imchen also shared on the status and efforts of conserving Blyth’s Tragopan in their respective areas.
Nagaland is home to 50% of world’s Tragopan population