Nagaland is more than just a beautiful hill station with picturesque landscape and evergreen forest. Falling under the biodiversity hotspots of the world, it is rich in flora and fauna despite its small area. According to Nagaland State Biodiversity Board (NSBB), the state is home to approximately 2,431 plant species belonging to 963 genera and 186 families, and many with medicinal value. Out of over a thousand orchid species found in India, about 360 are said to be found in the state alone.
While many take pride in the rich biodiversity of the state, we may leave a tragic story for the next generation to read if we do not take pragmatic measures to protect and preserve diverse species found in our forest. Experts have said that the state has hundreds of plant species with medicinal and commercial value but a comprehensive data is not available yet. With most people not aware of the rare and valuable species in their forests, farmers could be, in all likelihood, cutting down and burning them unconsciously every day. Jhum cultivation, a common practice in the state where forest is burnt down for growing crops, is said to have resulted in the loss of a large part of forest in Kohima in the last one decade. Around 20,000 hectares of forest is said to be cleared for jhum cultivation every year in the state. To avoid further damage to its biodiversity, the state government should encourage scientists to take up intensive research on the species available in its forest, list them and tell the general public on the need to preserve them. If such practical step is not taken up, there are possibilities of wiping out such species from our forests even before the people come to know its value.
The state is also rich in fauna with hundreds of bird species, fish, reptiles, insects and wild animals. But dwindling wildlife population has become a matter of concern. Some wild animals that used to be sighted in the forest not long ago can only be seen in the zoo today, thanks to excessive hunting for consumption and commercial purposes as well as deforestation. Among the faunas said to be nearing extinction is the state bird Blyth’s tragopan, a vulnerable species of pheasant. Ironically, the state’s famous Hornbill Festival, which has turned into a major tourist attraction over the years, is named after the great Indian hornbill bird but the population of the beautiful bird in the state has alarmingly decreased to the point that its sighting is becoming increasingly rare.
It is obvious that the rich floral and faunal biodiversity, which should have been considered as a treasure for the state, have been disturbed. But if the hunting ground of Amur falcons could be turned into a haven for the winged guests within a short span of time; and if the people who hunted down the bird could become its protectors overnight, the forest of Nagaland can surely be transformed into a safe home for both wildlife and plant species.