Artificial beaks save hornbills from extinction

Fibre replicas of beaks of hornbills have saved the rare birds from imminent extinction in Arunachal Pradesh as part of a campaign to save endangered species.

Itanagar: Fibre replicas of beaks of hornbills have saved the rare birds from imminent extinction in Arunachal Pradesh as part of a campaign to save endangered species.
The beaks and feathers of hornbill, declared a `state bird` in Arunachal Pradesh, are prized by the Nyishi population in the state which uses them for decorating their traditional headgears, called `pudum`.

It is mainly due to their killing of the beautiful and majestic birds that the population of the avian species has suffered a precipitous decline over the years, bringing them almost on the verge of extinction, forest officials say.

The state`s forest officials had almost given up on saving the birds till the state`s then deputy chief wildlife warden Chukhu Loma came up with the idea of fabricating fibre-made replicas of the beaks in 2000.

Loma in collaboration with the Wildlife Trust of India then sold the idea to the Nyishis of sparing the endangered birds by using the replicas.

Today a majority of the Nyishis have endorsed and supported Loma`s suggestion.

A conservationist, Loma, the former divisional forest officer of Pakke Tiger Reserve & Wildlife Sanctuary (PTRWS) in East Kameng district, even now pursues his aim to protect endangered bird species and has retrieved about 500 original hornbill beaks.

Operating from his residence at Doimukh, he presents artificial beak, in exchange for the original, to those who promise to spread awareness about refraining from killing wildlife.

Another significant move to conserve the bird was the recent launch of Hornbill Nest Adoption Programme, a novel idea of DFO Tana Tapi to conserve and protect hornbill nests in forest areas outside the Pakke reserve.

"The introduction of the HNAP is an added endeavour of the state`s Department of Environment and Forest," principal chief conservator of forest (wildlife & biodiversity) J L Singh said.

"This will not only give a new lease of life to the endangered species, the state bird of Arunachal Pradesh, and boost their population but could be considered as an example of the public private partnership (PPP) model," he said.

Tapi said that HNAP was aimed at ensuring conservation of hornbill population, noting that hornbill nesting habitat was being degraded because of loss and shortage of nesting sites outside the protected areas.

"It will extend protection and monitoring efforts outside the park with the involvement of the locals," Tapi reasoned.

The forest around PTRWS harbors four hornbills species - great hornbills, wreathed, oriental pied and the rufous-necked, listed in the 10th Schedule of the Wildlife Protection Act (1972), while the last variety is a globally threatened bird species, he disclosed.

Besides being a long-term wildlife conservation effort, it would help collect ecological information on the bird for research and planning, he said.

In all 14 nesting areas have been placed under protection, Tapi said.

The unique effort has not only increased inflow of tourists, bird lovers and watchers but also volunteers from within and abroad, including from Singapore to support the project with funds, Tapi concluded with satisfaction.

The Nature Conservation Foundation is funding the project and supporting field staff while Tapi plays advisory role and the department facilitates appointment of nest watchers.