For the last 10 days, I spent my time in a remote location in western Arunachal Pradesh, at the Eaglenest Wildlife Sanctuary in West Kameng district. The primary reason for my visit was to conduct a training workshop for school children of the area. Over six days, 47 children from remote locations of Tenga, Singchung and Rupa participated in an exciting and fulfilling workshop. Over the next few articles, I will chronicle some of the escapades of the children at Eaglenest, in the hope that you too will want to make a visit to the forests after hearing their stories!
Nestled in the eastern Himalayas, the Eaglenest Wildlife Sanctuary is only 218 square kilometres. With altitudes varying from 550 metres all the way to 3,300 metres, the area has some really terrific forests and astounding biodiversity. The sanctuary got its name because an army regiment, the Mountain Eagles, was based here in the 1950s.
The Eaglenest sanctuary shot to prominence in 2005 when an astronomer, Dr Ramana Athreya, discovered a new bird species at this sanctuary. The enormity of this achievement can be gauged by the fact that when the bird was discovered, it was the first new bird species to be described from India in more than 50 years! Ramana named the bird after the Bugun tribe, which is based in the area. Today, the Bugun tribe conducts community-based bird tourism in the area, and helps to conserve the area’s forests. In the last decade, many rare species of birds, mammals, frogs, snakes, lizards, butterflies and other lesser known fauna have been found in this area.
Coming back to the school children attending the education camp, most of them, were camping out in the wilds for the first time and their excitement was infectious! Over the first few days we told the children about Eaglenest and its rich biodiversity. The first reaction of the children was — “Show us the Bugun Liocichla!” Now this is easier said than done. The bird, a member of the babbler family, is shy and is seldom seen, normally staying behind the dense foliage of trees and bushes.
It has quite a distinct call, and that is the best way to note its presence. The bird is restricted to a very small area and it is has a very small population, only found in the area within the Eaglenest sanctuary.
Over the duration of the education camp we endeavoured to show the bird to a few lucky children. Six or seven children managed to see the Bugun Liocichla, and went back home delighted. They are probably already boasting to their friends that they are among the few people in the world to have seen the Bugun Liocichla in the wild!
More stories about Eaglenest to follow in the next issue…