Conservation initiatives of Hornbills in Tamenglong & Noney districts
- Part 2 -

Kh Hiltler Singh *

 Wreathed Hornbill (Rhyticeros undulatus) locally known as Langmeidong mei-ngou
Wreathed Hornbill (Rhyticeros undulatus) locally known as Langmeidong mei-ngou :: Pix - R.K. Birjit Singh

Hornbill Festival:

Tamenglong & Noney Districts may be in the distribution and breeding zone of the above Hornbills species, but there was extreme threat to thembecause of age old hunting practices. Further their habitat like large treesmostly Uningthou/Bonsum (Phoebe hainesia) with holes for nesting and fruit bearing trees for feedingare also decreasing because of Jhum Cultivation, Illegal logging, Forest Fire.

It shall be a major step and effective large scale involvement of local stakeholders for conservation of Hornbills in Manipur that Government of Manipur had the intention to organise "Hornbill Festival" at Tamenglong District in the year 2020 to spread the need to conserve the species on a wider platform.

The idea was mooted by the Hon'ble Minister Forest and Environment Th. Shyamkumar in the 5th Amur Falcons Festival held on 5th November 2019 in response to the request of Shri Armstrong Pame IAS, Deputy Commissioner, Tamenglong. He had informed Hon'ble Minister that many hornbills are in the Raengkiakilong Village of Tousem Sub-Division.

The President of the function Shri Kereilhouvi Angami IFS PrCCF & HoFF had instructed Shri Arun R S IFS DFO Tamenglong & his team for collecting necessary baseline data and to prepare a Conservation Plan for Hornbills urgently.

The firm commitment of Government of Manipur for organizing "Hornbills Festival" was reiterated by the Hon'ble Forest Minister Th. Shyamkumar in the inaugural Function of 16th Edition of State Level Orange Festival at Tamenglong Lower Ground on 9th December 2019 in presence of Hon'ble Chief Minister, Government of Manipur Shri N. Biren Singh.

Tamenglong& Noney Districts: Tamenglong and Noney have highest percentage Forest Cover in Manipur which is about 90%. Tamenglong is really God's gift of Bio-diversity hot spot.

Several Geological formations of Rivers, Lakes, Hill ridges, Caves dotted through the length and breadth of the District. Some famous landscapes are Barak River, Makru River, Irang River, Ijei River, Iring River, Leimatak River, Zeilad and associated Lakes, Mount Kisha, Tharon Cave, Khoupum Water Fall etc.

Important Nesting & Feeding sites as per secondary survey report:

Bhalok(Phalong), Dailong, Akhui, Chiulon, Khangchuilon,
Tamenglong Khunjao, Kahulong, Keikao, Wairangba,
Puching, Guangram, Irang, Bamgaijang, Zeiladjang,
Chingkao, Azuram, Namtiram, Tousem, Raengkiakilong,
Charinapang, Chingkhulong, Sibilong, under Tamenglong Forest Division and
Toudaijang, Awangkhul, Lankgkhong, Noney,
Nungnang, Kambiron, Khoupum chingkao, Mukti namdai,
Kamingching, Lungraeng, Taosang, Monjarong Khunou under Noney Forest Division etc
are the main nesting and feeding sites reported.

Organizational Setup of Tamenglong Forest Division & Noney Forest Division: Tamenglong Forest Division, Tamenglong is headed by one Divisional Forest Officer. Under the control of DFO; there are three Forest Ranges namely Tamenglong Range, Tousem Range and Tamei Range. Noney Forest Division is headed by one Divisional Forest Officer. Under the control of DFO; there are three Forest Ranges namely Noney Range, Nungba Range and Khoupum Range.

Local NGOs, Club, other Stake holders and our past achievements : There were very limited local NGOs committed to conservation and preservation of Forest, Wildlife and Environment in the District HQ in the past. But recently many NGOs are coming forward to help in protection of Amur falcon from wanton hunting and selling in the markets.

Several Village Institutions such as Village Authorities, Church Organizations, local youth Clubs are taking active part in disseminating awareness of conserving Amur falcons and other Wildlife in the District.

Rain Forest Club, Tamenglong under the Chairmanship of DC, Tamenglong has contributed in wide scale awareness dissemination of conserving Forest, Wildlife and safeguarding environment.

Similar NGO namely Noney Nature Club came into existence since 2018.

With the local people support hunting of Amur falcon have come down drastically during the last three /four years. With Wildlife Institute of India, Dehradun Forest Department Manipur could tag satellite transmitters to seven Amur falcons in 2018 (Two nos) and 2019 (Five nos).

In 2018 Tamenglong and Manipur had tagged with satellite transmitters and released on 5th November Morning. Manipur was killed by some miscreants on 8th November and Tamenglong was tracked till Zambia in South Africa till 14th December 2018. From there Tamenglong also stopped giving satellite data because of unknown reasons.

In 2019 Puching and Irang was tagged with satellite transmitters and released on 31st October 2019 at Puching. On the next day i.e. 1st November 2019 Barak, Chiulon and Phalong were tagged with satellite transmitters and released at Puching Village. When Dr. Sureshkumar Scientist of WII tried for tracking these released birds through ARGOS Satellites, after three/four days satellite data for Puching and Phalong are not available.

The reasons for the lost of contact with Puching and Phalong could be technical problems with solar charger of the tag or due to capture myopathy. But at least three Amur falcons viz Chiulon, Irang and Barak had been tracked upto South Africa till date. Releasing of Barak and Chuilon Satellite transmitters tagged Amur Falcon at Puching on 1st November 2019.

Proposed Activities: The Tamenglong Forest Division, Tamenglong had initiated some activities for safeguarding Amur Falcon and other wildlife which are found outside the three proposed wildlife sanctuaries in the District with its limited budgetary support of Protection of Amur falcons mostly for creation of Awareness on Forest and Wildlife Conservation.

But it is highly necessary to carry out protection works as well as research activities for conservation of several species of Hornbills. The people mindsets were greatly influenced by the Amur Falcon Dance Festival. Thus it is necessary to continue such programs for Hornbills as well to inculcate love of the species and other wildlife.

The villages where Hornbills are nesting and feeding should be provided adequate awareness and incentive to conserve these birds and also old big trees where they nest by making tree holes and also their preferred fruit bearing trees.

The dependency of villagers on their age old practice of jhum (Shifting) cultivation is also to be taken good care as these activities are having adverse impact to the habitat of Hornbills. The volunteers should be engaged to protect old trees where hornbills are sheltering and many fruit bearing tree should be preserved. There shall be one monitoring and research station at Tamenglong.

Research work on several species of Hornbills should be taken up to understand their local migration journey and pattern besides the study of its ecology and habitat requirement in detail in collaboration with National or International Conservation Organization.

Thus there shall be five components of activities viz
(1) Protection
(2) Publicity Awareness and Community participation in conservation
(3) Providing incentive and alternative Livelihood to the local people
(4) Creation of Infrastructure &
(5) Research of several species of Hornbills for conservation of Hornbills in Tamenglong& Noney Districts of Manipur.

We hope that, with the assistances of MoEFCC (Ministry of Environment, Forest and Climate Change), Government of India for development of Wildlife Habitat outside the Protected Area Networks; Tamenglong and Noney Forest Divisions shall be able to take up conservation measures in the right direction for different species of Hornbills.

{Acknowledgment: I would like to acknowledge and thank Shri Arun R S DFO Tamenglong, Dr. Kh. Samungou, K. Jugeshwor and his Birds Book, Dr. Chambo Gonmei, Nehemiah Panmei, Vijay Kanthale ACF, Rainforest Club members, Staff of Tamenglong Forest Division for their kind suggestions and RK Birjit State Coordinator IBCN, Mordecai Panmei, Gyan Prakash IAS, Sankar Dasgupta, Minom Pertin, Anku Boro, BYF- Chramram Baptist Church for allowing me to use their photos of different hornbills/landscape.}

(Concluded ....)

* Kh Hiltler Singh wrote this article for The Sangai Express
This article was webcasted on January 30, 2020.

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