Concerns over conservation

Monday Musing

[ M Doley ]

For many tribal communities, hunting of wildlife for sustenance has been the way of life throughout their history.
Arunachal is inhabited by the world’s largest variety of ethnic tribal groups and subgroups numbering over a hundred, who have been traditionally practicing subsistence hunting for ages. Until one or two decades ago, when there was no trade of animal body parts, this traditional hunting practice in the state was sustainable, or so it is believed. However, the magnitude of hunting and its impact on the biodiversity have not yet been documented adequately.
Hunting has become more dangerous with the use of modern techniques as such forms of hunting are a larger threat to the existence of the wildlife. The worrisome fact is that many rare, endangered and critically endangered birds and animals are being hunted unmindfully. Many birds are hunted inside the nest when they are incubating their eggs or guarding their chicks.
“Hunting of birds, especially during the breeding season, has serious consequences as it breaks the lifecycle and leads to local extinction of species,” researchers Dr P Chutia and Dr GS Solanki, from Assam and Mizoram, respectively, who conducted extensive surveys on the hunting of wildlife in Arunachal, said in their paper.
It is a fact that hornbills have gone extinct in many areas of the state. Apart from this, the traditional hunting at the village level on the pretext of cultural rituals has been the great impediment to the government in acting effectively as their traditional rights and culture cannot be curtailed.
The concerns raised by the government, leaders, organisations and conscientious citizens against such mass killing of wildlife have had little meaning to them.
The recent reports of seizures and sale of wildlife meat in the open markets of the capital complex is the tip of the iceberg of flourishing wildlife trade in Arunachal. The high demand for such meat and body parts in the markets is encouraging hunters to kill animals without a second thought.
Arunachal, situated in the eastern Himalayas, is one of the global biodiversity hotspots. The state’s lush green meadows, tropical wet evergreen forests, and deep jungles provide perfect shelter to a wide variety of wildlife species, including some rare and endangered ones.
According to the IUCN, species having less than 50 mature individuals and whose populations have reduced to more than 90 percent in the last 10 years are classified as ‘critically endangered’.
The Namdapha flying squirrel, found only in the Namdapha Wildlife Sanctuary, has been listed in the IUCN’s red list of critically endangered species. The rare and unique creature is at the extremely high risk of extinction in the wild due to random hunting for food, the IUCN reported.
At least 25 vulnerable and endangered animal species are found in Arunachal, and the red panda is one of them.
Poaching, habitat loss and fragmentation, and ‘inbreeding depression’ are stated to be posing a threat to some of the most beautiful animals on Earth.
The villagers of Chug, in West Kameng district, recently declared their 100 sq km forest area a community conserved area, in order to conserve rare and endangered species like the red panda, the takin, the musk deer, the Himalayan monal, and the satyr tragopan found in their forest.
It is appalling that when a section of the Arunachalee society has taken several measures to protect the wildlife, many are killing the animals unmindfully for selfish reasons.
The attitude and approach of the wildlife hunters can be changed only through massive awareness campaigns. They must be made aware of the importance of wildlife in the conservation of the ecology.
It is high time that the government adopted strategies to prevent the rampant hunting, in order to save the least documented faunas of the state.