Thursday, January 22, 2009

In the Valley of Black-necked Crane

For last couple of week I had been to the Dirang, one of the most beautiful valley in the westernmost part of Arunachal Pradesh as a part of my field trip. The land of raising sun, Arunachal Pradesh having a home of 26 major tribes and 110 sub-tribes, it provides the blend of vast cultural, ritual, and ethnic diversity and is perhaps one of the richest area in terms of its floral, faunal, cultural ethnic and ritual diversity in India. With 26 major tribes and more than 110 sub-tribes, the state supports over 600 species of Orchids, more than 200 species of mammalian fauna and about 738 species of birds are being recorded to occur till now. In the western part of Arunachal Pradesh, which was earlier known as Kameng, one can enjoy the beauty of tropical evergreen forests found along the foothills of southern part of the West Kameng district bordering with Assam (up to an elevation gradient of 900m). As you move up, the forest patterns turns into subtropical evergreen or mixed forest which ranges up to an altitudinal range from 900 to 1800 m msl. In Dirang valley you will find a mixture of mixed forest along with the temperate forest. As you move towards Tawang, in upward direction, before reaching the Sela pass, (which is the world’s second highest motorable road) in lower sela area, the subalpine fir vegetation started (which is the dominant in the sela pass region upto an altitude of 4500 m msl). Above 4500m height the vegetation is mostly Alpine vegetation dominated by herbaceous species like Rheum, Arenaria, Saussurea etc. along with Rhododendron sp.
Dirang, which is also a District block with an area of 139,940 ha, of which 63.5 % area is under evergreen forest cover, whereas 35.7% are under the deciduous and degraded forest cover, provides general land cover pattern which is smooth and simple. The steep slopes of almost all river valleys where moderate erosion is expected, are covered by degraded forests. Sangti village and valley which is almost about 30-40 minutes drive from Dirang, at an altitude of 1500 m, known for its wintering Black necked Crane Gurus nigricollis. The Black necked crane is one of the rarest bird species found in Himalayan belt and it has been listed under Vulnerable category according to BirdLife International. Sangti valley along with Zimithang is the two valleys that this species of bird visit in Western Arunachal Pradesh along with other four sites in entire Arunachal.
The Monpa tribes, which practices Buddhism, protect these species according to their traditional believes and faith in this two valleys. Monpas played an important role of intermediaries in trade between Assam and Tibet. While they used to go to Tibetan trading market during the summers, they usually visited Assam plains during winters. Produce like chillies, vegetable, dyes, hand made paper, and husked rice traded for Tibetan salt, wool and churpi. Masks, animal hide, chillies, etc., were also important trade items of Monpas to be exchanged with Tibetan rock salt, wool, woolen cloths and Tibetan dao resembling swords. Within the Arunachal also, Monpas exchange butter, coats shoes, carpets, blankets, masks and yak cap, salt and beetle nut with Sherdukpen tribal group in exchange of cows, Assamese endicloths, mithun and animal-skins. Although Monpas are the predominant community, other five tribes also occur in this part of state, they are Sherdukpen, Khowa, Aka and Miji.
Of late the declaration of the proposed Twang West Kameng BR (also known as Tsangyang Gyatso biosphere reserve and Peace park) has let some light in for conservation efforts in the area, with participation from the locals. Tsangyang Gyatso Biosphere Reserve is named after his holiness the 6th Dalai Lama (1683-1706) who was born at Urgeling in Tawang district. GB Pant Institute of Himalayan Environment and Development, North East Unit is working in the proposed reserve with Human-wildlife conflict and co-existence in three different dimensions— 1). Livestock depredation and retaliatory killing of carnivores; 2). Agricultural damage induced conflict and killing of crop raiding animals; 3). Grazing competition between livestock and wild ungulates.
The western Arunachal provides tremendous scope for the wildlife biologists and sociologists to work. I will be sharing my other experiences working in this area in coming blog posts. At last I must suggest everbody to have a visit to this part of Himalay once in their lifetime......

With Regards-
Kripal-the naturelover

Kripaljyoti Mazumdar
G.B. Pant Institute for Himalayan
Environment and Development
North East Unit, Itanagr,
Arunachal Pradesh-791113

"Nature has been for me, as long as I
remember, a source of solace, inspiration,
adventure, and delight; a home, a teacher, and a companion." — Lorraine Anderson

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