Hunter turns guide for green teams in Namdapha

We all know our people in the picture. They are projected as “hunters”. This is what frustrates me about Aparajita and the Nature Conservation Foundation. It is good for them to get funding but what image that proclaim to their “wildlife world”? Its also fund to read Aparajita’s dream for the development of our people.

But, as always, history tells the complete story. After 10 years of fieldwork in our area, every one of us know her and her team’s true picture, completely from 2010. Now I wonder whether there will be anyone from our people to invite that team in our home.

In addition to the two articles in this blog, there are many more Roopak Goswami and others have reported in the Telegraph:

  • Core area chaos at Namdapha – Efforts to resettle tribals for conservation face twin hurdles (Telegraph India, 16 Sep 2009).
  • Probe team in Namdapha – Reports of hunting, ineffective protection measures spark move (Telegraph India, 19 March 2012).

  • Aircraft cover for Namdapha tigers – Microlight plane to hover over sanctuary in Arunachal for surveillance (Telegraph India, 31 July 2009).
  • Report exposes security flaws at Namdapha – National Tiger Conservation Authority recommends audit and selection of staff for tiger reserve (Telegraph India, 22 January 2013).

  • Namdapha location both asset & drawback – Staff accused of laxity (Telegraph India, 29 Dec 2006)
  • Tiger sighted in Namdapha – Big cat spotted on camera, pug marks promise more (Telegraph India, April 4 , 2012).

Continue to read….

Liahey

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Source: Hunter turns guide for green teams in Namdapha – Conservation foundation turns to Lisu tribesmen to save endangered species and generate awareness, by ROOPAK GOSWAMI (Telegraph India, 9 July 2007)

Lisu tribesmen fix a camera-trap at the park. Picture by Aparajita Dutta

Guwahati, July 8: The stealthy footsteps that once scoured forests to capture unsuspecting prey, now lead conservationists to rare species on the brink of extinction.

Akhi Nathany, a Lisu tribesman of Arunachal Pradesh, has traded his hunting gear for binoculars. The credit for the exchange goes to Nature Conservation Foundation, a Mysore-based group that aims to conserve wildlife in Arunachal Pradesh by involving tribal communities.

Nathany, now a gram panchayat member, is the main field co-ordinator of the foundation. The 55-year-old has donned the mantle of a guide, directing conservation teams with their camera-traps to even the most inaccessible of Namdapha National Park.

“People like him have unmatched knowledge of the terrain and landscape of the park. He will just find a way out of nowhere and navigate you to where you want to go. We just explain some features of the area we want to go to and show him some streams and other reference points on a map and he takes us there, without any trails or tracks. Without his help, it would have been impossible to conduct camera-trap surveys,” said Aparajita Datta, a scientist working with the foundation.

The organisation works primarily with the Lisu tribe that has settled on the fringes of the reserve forest. Several former hunters are engaged in the wildlife monitoring program which offers return benefits like medical support, training in healthcare and education, by supporting schools and teachers in the villages.

The park sprawls over an area of 1,985.23 square km on the international border between India and Myanmar, in Arunachal’s Changlang district.

Aparajita pointed out that as most of the work has to be done on foot, the teams need people to ferry rations and equipment.

“We need people to go back to get rations as they run out. Also, we place one trap in a particular location for 15 days, and then move on to new spots. But we would like to place the camera-traps simultaneously. As we have a limited number of traps at our disposal, some of the Lisus go back to retrieve the contraptions from earlier locations and bring them to the next spot,” she said.

A community protection force for the park has also been mooted. As many as 25 species of mammals, including 10 rare and endangered breeds like the clouded leopard, Asiatic black bear, Malayan sun bear and marbled cat, have been spotted here.

The organisation is also enlisting the help of the tribe to prepare an educational CD in Hindi for children in the state. “We will get a Nishi or Lisu narrator once the visuals, audio and script for the CD are put together,” she said.

Livelihood options for the Lisus have also been discussed. Leaders of the community have suggested starting a piggery to meet consumption and income needs.

“After much discussion, a plan has been worked out where beneficiaries will be identified and modalities framed accordingly. This will involve contributions from the community in the form of labour and manpower. Financial assistance for the piggery will be provided by the foundation as initial investments. Work will begin around September or October, after the monsoon,” Aparajita informed.

The foundation has also contacted organisations in Guwahati, Bangalore and New Delhi to promote indigenous Lisu handicrafts.

“Samples, pictures and product descriptions have been sent to two commercial enterprises as well as some entrepreneurs. The effort has yielded some supplementary income for a few families here. We have also granted financial support to a partner NGO near Namdapha to help set up a tribal handicrafts shop that will enable villagers to augment their income. We hope it will go a long way in generating awareness among local residents and tourists about the park. The shop is ready and will be open in time for the winter tourist traffic,” she said.

Influencers on Yobin Society: Aparajita Datta

Aparajita Datta (Photo: Topnews.ae).

As we all know, in our villages all know her by the name “Loghina” (loghi is a variety of deer and na is the Lisu way of indicating the first born daughter). I have never met this great lady but her reputation goes much ahead of her.

Recently I have been thinking how to describe her. She is a mobilizer, a social worker, a scientist, an adventurer and a leader. Then I read her bio in the National Geographic and I thought they captured her well, “… persistent requests for government attention, Datta is uniquely poised to connect political, conservation, and local interests.”

HER CONTRIBUTIONS FOR LISU

Among all the researchers who have come to Lisu area, none have influenced us as much as she did. Look at what she and her team did among the Lisu/Yobin:

  • In partnership with Katha Schools, she started four schools in Ngwazakha, Hazolo, Shidi and Shidiku since 2005. One of my sisters studied in their school and she is doing well in her studies.
  • Flood control in Shidi. Noa-Dihing River destroys our paddy field. She and her team built control by putting stones and boulders inside metal wrap locally called “Jhali”.
  • Medicines at Shidi. Essential medicines were dispensed until recently. That helped many sick people.  For one round, she organized medical camps in many of our villages.
  • Solar lamps, water heaters for Hazolo villagers were provided in collaboration with Madam Nandita Hazarika of EcoSystems-India, based in Guwahati.
  • She wrote a lot on her research. Through her writings, our problems and needs are projected to the world.

I am very glad she recently received “Green Oscar” award for her initiatives to preserve the hornbill.

THE OTHER SIDE OF THE COIN

She used emotions to get her way. When people don’t agree with her, she cried. What can you do? Sometimes she gets extremely angry and walked away, leaving the people behind confused.

I’m often surprised in her statements about us, hunters or to her Lisu workers “ex-hunters”. Its strange to brand the whole tribe as “hunting tribe”.

She never disclosed she is working for the Namdapha National Park and a member of the National Tiger Conservation Authority of India. That became apparent to all Lisu only in 2010 when she represented the Tiger Project at Miao. People in the villages without internet access blindly believed. Because of this, I wonder whether our people will accept her as we did in the past.

She had also formed a group of Lisu men, several years ago, to help her distribute financial assistance to the Lisu students studying in and around Miao. She had also proposed to financially help Lisu business aspirants.  Both these promises are yet to be realized. But we hope she will fulfill them as well.

FINAL COMMENT

But whatever the reasons, she is a remarkable woman. She benefitted the Namdapha, the Lisu/Yobin, her organization “Nature Conservation Foundation”. For Namdapha she had provided information, to us she has done several humanitarian projects, and to her organization, she developed many scientists and a name.

Read more:  her writings, profile, Nature Conservation Foundation.