In a revolutionary gesture that might inspire conservationists, a tribal village in Selbalgre in Meghalaya has set an example by declaring itself as a wildlife reserve.
The village, located about 20 km from Tura town, is an important Hollock Gibbon (Bunopithecus hoolock) habitat.
BS Easa, senior director of the Wildlife Trust of India (WTI), told media from Tura: "It is indeed a wonderful move and has set an example for wildlife conservation. It has highlighted the role a village community can play in the conservation of wildlife." <b1>
He added: "This is the first time people have declared a village a wildlife reserve in a systematic manner."
Easa said the villagers were very enthusiastic about conservation of wildlife, especially the Gibbon, and had banned hunting in their village. This was a step forward towards involvement of the village community in wildlife conservation. The people have their own village committee to oversee conservation work.
"This is a welcome move and is quite unique as the villagers have themselves decided to keep aside some of their land for wildlife conservation," said Rahul Kaul, also a senior WTI official.
The villagers' decision followed a project initiated by WTI with support from the British High Commission to study the role of district councils for protecting forests and wildlife.
The reserve area comprises about 5 sq km of forests, which may be expanded in the near future as villagers have shown willingness to give more land.
WTI has been working closely with the autonomous district councils in the state to empower them to protect wildlife.
In the recent past, WTI had discussions with the council members, the Nokmas (village head) and others to help them take the decision.
The objective of the project is also to come out with a policy document that would help the councils to tackle contemporary issues on wildlife conservation.
As part of this project, WTI has been collecting information on the use of forest resources by the villagers and produced forest cover maps to help in the study.
In December 2006, the Garo Hills Autonomous District Council had constituted a Wildlife Monitoring Committee to suggest measures for wildlife conservation in areas that fell under its jurisdiction.