We have just observed, witnessed and read about the National Wildlife Week (October 2-8th), involving awareness campaigns and schools and communities affirming and reaffirming pledges to our protect wildlife- the flora and fauna of our state. Humans contribute massively to wildlife but not always in the best of ways, and the National Wildlife Week offers an opportunity to give all types of wild animals hope that their habitats are being preserved and supported by humans, who essentially pose the biggest threat to them. Until recently, Nagaland was no more than a killing field as far as its wildlife story was concerned. Hunting has been one of the earliest forms of occupation and also a necessity for survival. For us, hunting also enfolds with it a bit of traditional twist- a man’s strength, his skill and prowess were determined by his hunting trophies. Over time, hunting became rampant and has caused huge damages, pushing many wildlife species into extinction. But thanks to conservation efforts, there has been a visible change to the people’s outlook, though we are yet to be completely liberated from our old ways.
It is an established fact that wildlife conservation efforts in Nagaland cannot succeed without the hands-on involvement of the local communities. Many of the hills that were once blanketed by thick forests have been reduced bald through deforestation. Even today timber extraction and coal mining continues to be major sources of income for many villages, leading to a rapid degradation of the virgin forests, particularly in privately owned forests.
Despite many communities and villages coming forward to conserve their forests (and wildlife), unfortunately, the notion of gifting (hunted) wild animals to bureaucrats or VIPs in order to gain favours is still prevalent here. However difficult we might find to admit, hunting is still rampant and very much a part of our lives, mainly due to the just mentioned point as well as glaring fact that there are buyers, who are ignorant or unaware that they are encouraging the crime when they buy wildlife products, which directly impacts on the loss of habitat and wildlife. And sadly, many of our wildlife are more or less being relegated to the realm of folktales.
In 2016, ‘Biodiversity of Nagaland’, a book documenting the diversity of resources of plants and animals in the state, researched and compiled by Dr. Sapu Changkija of Nagaland University and published by the state department of Forest, Environment & Climate Change was released. The inventory in this book, a checklist of the important plants and their floristic characterization and composition of the state forest resources, also reveals that the state currently is home to only 67 common wild animals and 519 bird species. Forest inhabitants are an indication of a healthy ecosystem and are influential in maintaining the delicate balance in the ecosystem. It is time we learn this and educate our people who remain ignorant of this vital reality.
The Government of India unveiled the third National Wildlife Action Plan for 2017-2031 on October 2, spelling out the future road map for wildlife conservation. This action plan comes after the first one in 1983 and the second from 2002-16. It is widely considered that the most recent plan is unique as it indicates India recognizing for the first time, the concerns relating to climate change impact on wildlife and stresses on integrating actions that need to be taken for its mitigation and adaptation into wildlife management planning processes. The plan was unveiled by environment minister Dr. Harsh Vardhan on the inaugural day of the Global Wildlife Programme (GWP) conference, a World-Bank led partnership of 19 countries to promote the conservation and sustainable development by combating trafficking in wildlife. The new plan adopts a landscape approach in conservation of all wildlife – uncultivated flora and fauna – that have an ecological value to the ecosystem and to mankind irrespective of where they occur. It gives special emphasis to recovery of threatened species of wildlife through conserving their habitats. The plan lays down that the Centre would ensure that adequate and sustained funding including Corporate Social Responsibility funds are made available for the National Wildlife Action Plan implementation.
Throughout Wildlife Week, we have read about forest and wildlife officials conducting awareness workshops and programmes to bring the more complex aspects of wildlife conservation within the reach and understanding of different groups, but the onus really is on us to take stern counter measures and check the irreplaceable damages already done.