India’s easternmost rainforest, one of very few wildlife preserves on earth housing seven wildcat species, has thrown open its doors to tourists with a three-day festival.
The first ever Rainforest Festival got under way on the fringes of Jeypore Reserve Forest, 60 km southeast of Dibrugarh town in eastern Assam. A part of the 575 sq km Jeypore, spread across three eastern Assam districts, forms the Dehing-Patkai Wildlife Sanctuary.
According to DFO Anurag Singh, the objective of the festival was to create awareness among local people on Jeypore’s ecological significance in the global context besides promoting it as an eco-tourism attraction.
“Jeypore isn’t India’s only rainforest. There’s one in Kerala’s Silent Valley and a few in the Andaman Islands. But Jeypore is richer in terms of biodiversity and is among very few wildlife preserves on earth that boasts of seven wildcat species including the Royal Bengal tiger, clouded leopard, common leopard, golden cat and marbled cat,” Singh told HT from Dibrugarh, 443 km east of Guwahati.
He added the festival was also conceived to boost local economy surrounding Jeypore by showcasing ethnic cultures, cuisine and artifacts.
Five layers of vegetation distinguish a rainforest from a normal forest. A different pattern of rainfall, distributed across all seasons, gives it its biodiversity edge.
Jeypore came into focus in 2009 when photographs, taken by a wildlife biologist, confirmed the co-existence of seven cat species in a single landscape. Unlike Kaziranga National Park 300 km to the west, poachers have more or less kept away from Jeypore.
“There have been a few cases of shooting of elephant and deer. But we haven’t seen much of illegal felling of trees and hunting,” Singh said. “People are afraid of going inside the forest because of the terrain and density.”
Senior forest officials here said a US agency has earmarked Jeypore for a patrolling project soon.