Sentinels of Eaglenest: How the Bugun tribals in Arunachal protect this wildlife sanctuary
Eaglenest

The Eaglesnest Wildlife Sanctuary in Arunachal Pradesh’s West Kameng District is home to 600 species of birds, making it a biodiversity hotspot. The wildlife sanctuary is also home to the critically endangered Bugun Loicichla bird, which is found nowhere else in the world but here.

From the Eaglesnest Wildlife Sanctuary in Arunachal Pradesh, watch this special documentary by EastMojo's editor-in-chief Karma Paljor, on community conservation by the Buguns, one of the smallest tribes in India, who have vowed to protect the critically endangered Bugun Loicichla bird, found nowhere else in the world but here...

It was Astrophysicist Ramana Atreya, who was on a birdwatching trip to Eaglenest, who first spotted the Bugun Loicichla bird in 1996. It was described as a new species in 2006 and named after the Buguns, one of the smallest tribes in India.

“I was very certain that it was not a figment of my imagination. By then, of course, the internet had improved so I could talk to people here and there and confirmed that this bird was not found anywhere else in the world and that it was related to Liocichla,” said Dr Atreya.

In May 2006, the bird was described as a new species. As the discoverer of the bird, Dr Athreya decided to name the bird after the Bugun tribe – one of the smallest tribes in Arunachal with a population of about 2000, who reside in the vicinity of the wildlife sanctuary.

In 2017 the Bugun tribe declared over 17 square km of their community land as the Sinchung Village Community reserve. This acts as the buffer to the core area of the Eaglenest Wildlife reserve. The villagers’ efforts won them the Indian Biodiversity Award 2018 in the “Conservation of Wildlife Species” category conferred by the National Biodiversity Authority (NBA).

Youths of the village volunteered to protect the wildlife sanctuary and do rounds of the core areas of the wildlife sanctuary.

Wanchu Phinya is among the ten boys and a girl who has joined the conservation effort to protect the Eaglenest Wildlife Sanctuary and actively patrol the forest looking for poachers and loggers.

“We were also hunters earlier. So we know where they come from. We have completely stopped hunting now. Since we are familiar with the area, the villagers chose us as professional scouts for the Community Reserve,” said Wanchu.

“The nine boys I work with, out of them, two to three boys always stay with me during fieldwork, shooting, etc. Overall, my experience has been good,” added Shaleena Phinya, the only female member of the group.

B Darrang, Divisional Forest Officer of Eaglenest Wildlife Sanctuary said that the discovery of the Bugun Liochicla bird changed the region.

“Ecotourism or what we say conservation tourism has come up in a big way. Now, this has resulted in increased employment potential. We have, as of now, six local birding guides who have a good income,” said B Darrag.

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