The endangered hornbill will finally get something out of an annual ethnic extravaganza it was named after. However, that too depends on how good the Nagas are at ballroom dancing.
Nagaland's warriors are used to waltzing, often with spears and machetes, to celebrate a war victory. For a
change, some of them would be waltzing to fight a different war - for the hornbill.
The 11th edition of the seven-day Hornbill Festival showcasing Naga lifestyles got under way at Kisama, 8 km south of state capital Kohima, on Wednesday.
Until this year, the organisers never really spared a thought for the bird they were cashing in on for a tourism turnaround.
Nagas agree this took a long time coming in a state, where hornbills, despite being eulogised in folklore, are killed for their feathers to make an ethnic statement.
Tribes such as the Zemes even believe the hornbill's socio-ecological value equals that of a tiger, also an awe-inspiring creature in Naga culture. The 'equality' is primarily because of a roar-like sound the hornbill makes.
The tiger is no longer found in Nagaland. Conservationists believe the hornbill is headed the same way, and no one knows how many of these birds exist in the wild.
"We have organised a ballroom dance on Friday, partly to fund an initiative to save the hornbill," tourism commissioner-secretary Himato Zhimomi said.
"You can call it the green waltz."
The ballroom dance comes for a price - Rs. 5000 per head. Much of the proceeds will go to charity, but 30% is earmarked for the save-hornbill fund.
"This is part of our effort to add value to this festival and not let it be song-and-dance kind of thing," said tourism parliamentary secretary Yitachu.
Wildlife officials have welcomed the Hornbill-for-hornbill idea.
"Their number is dwindling by the day," said principal chief conservator of forest S Goel.
His department had some time ago submitted a proposal to New Delhi for declaring the Mount Kista forest in southwest Nagaland's Peren district a hornbill-specific biodiversity area.
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