Guwahati, May 8 : For long, the traditional hunting practiced by the Lisu tribe of Arunachal Pradesh in the 1985-sq km Namdapha tiger reserve of the state has been considered a potential threat to wildlife by the authorities. However, the attitude towards the community is changing with the tribe now coming forward to protect wildlife in Namdapha. The Lisus are now being engaged in protection squads in the tiger reserve, Arunchal Pradesh chief conservator of forest (southern circle) SJ Johnsam said.
"Following dialogues with the Lisu community, there has been perceptible change among the community members living in and around Namdapha. They are now cooperating in conservation activities. We are paying Rs 2,500 per month to Lisu volunteers for helping the forest department in conservation," Johnsam said.
Arunachal Pradesh deputy conservator of forest P Ringu said that there have been no reports of major poaching activities in Namdapha in the last 14 months due to the cooperation of the Lisus. "Lisus are also coming forward to help the forest department as informers and guides. This is a positive change indeed," Ringu said.
Aaranyak wildlife biologist Udayan Borthakur, who is currently engaged in tiger estimation work in Namdapha, said it would be impossible to protect the tiger reserve without the support of the local community.
Some conservationists are of the opinion that more efforts are needed to bridge the gap between the Lisus tribe and the forest department. "As of now, the relation between the two sides is not very strong, but there has been considerable improvement. A lot more has to be done to narrow the gap," a conservationist said.
Officials said the Namdapha tiger conservation and management plan will be submitted to the National Tiger Conservation Authority this month. "Once the plan is approved, we will get funds for eco-developmental activities. This will further encourage participation of the Lisus tribe in conservation work," an official said.
Namdapha in Changlang district is located in the eastern most of part of the state. The vast part of the reserve is virtually inaccessible because of its location in a difficult terrain.
The Lisus tribe is known for their excellent hunting skills. However in earlier years, they resorted to retaliatory hunting due to their poor relation with the forest department. They were even hostile to conservationists in the past.
In 2005, the Union ministry of environment and forest's tiger task force ( TTF) suggested that the Lisu community's hunting expertise be used for protection of Namdapha by making them stakeholders in conservation of the reserve as they know the terrain better than the regular forest guards.