Nagaland is a mountainous state located in the north-eastern part of India with a geographical area of 16,527 sq. km of which ~ 50% is under forest cover. Falling in the Indo-Malayan Region it is also part of a global biodiversity ‘hotspot’ and the Eastern Himalayan endemic bird area, indicative of the region’s rich biological wealth. The remarkable floral and faunal diversity of the area could be attributed to the wide range in climatic conditions, elevation gradients and vegetation types that are characteristic of the state.
Nagaland is home to a unique assemblage of biodiversity. Only 1.3% of it is covered by state administered protected areas. The remaining forested region is owned by different indigenous communities, most of which depend extensively on bush-meat for subsistence. In recent times, many members of local communities have taken to commercial form of hunting due to extensive demand for bush-meat and an accelerated population growth along with unemployment.
Four field visits were undertaken in 2010 to various parts of Nagaland (Khonoma, Benreu, Intanki, Pungro, Fakim, Mon and Mokokchung) by a team of wildlife enthusiasts. This formed the basis for a rigorous statewide scientific biodiversity survey in 2011 with 11 wildlife biologists of the post graduate programme in wildlife and conservation run by Wildlife Conservation Society (WCS) and National Centre for Biological Sciences (NCBS), based in Bangalore. These surveys resulted in significant wildlife sightings but also found immense and shocking conservation challenges owing to rampant hunting (both for commercial and subsistence purposes) and forest clearing (largely due to jhum or shifting cultivation practice and potentially illegal timber operations). A detailed report was submitted to the Government of Nagaland by the team in mid 2010.
Despite the grim findings the team believed that Nagaland has a fantastic opportunity to protect its unique wildlife as part of its overall heritage. Thus based on the findings of these preliminary field visits and detailed discussions with senior officials of Department of Forests, Ecology, Environment and Wildlife, Nagaland, it was proposed that an immediate conservation program is considered by the government.
This was the genesis of our nonprofit organisation — Nagaland Wildlife & Biodiversity Conservation Trust (NWBCT).