In the dense forests of Northeast India, one of the most memorable sights is a Great Hornbill. Of the nine species of hornbills in India, four species – the Great Hornbill, the Wreathed Hornbill, the Oriental Pied Hornbill and the globally endangered Rufous-necked Hornbill are found in and around the forests of the Pakke Tiger Reserve. Hornbills are traditionally hunted by some local communities of Northeast India for their casques and tail feathers to decorate their headgear, perceived medicinal value of their fat and secondarily for food. Hornbill populations are also affected by increasing deforestation especially in the forests outside the relatively better Protected Areas.
Wreathed Hornbill at its nest cavity
Since 2003, the Nature Conservation Foundation (NCF) a conservation organisation, based in Mysore and Bangalore, has been monitoring hornbill nest sites in the Pakke Tiger Reserve. As part of this work, the team also monitored a few nests in the Papum Reserved Forest outside the protected area. These forests outside Pakke cover more than 1000 sq. km of prime hornbill habitat. However, there was a lot of deforestation in the region, especially in parts of the forest bordering Assam.
The Hornbill Nest Adoption Program
The NCF team found that compared to the nests inside Pakke, hornbill nests outside in the Reserved Forest were often located in very disturbed areas and the trees were often cut down or the nests abandoned by the birds. Realising the need to protect hornbill nests and nest trees, NCF, in collaboration with the Ghora-Aabhe Society – a council of Nyishi village headmen and the Arunachal Pradesh Forest Department – started the Hornbill Nest Adoption Program (HNAP). The program runs on the concept of shared parenting.
Nyishi villagers locate, identify, monitor and protect hornbill nests and roosts, while urban citizens adopt nests and contribute towards the well being of tribal communities. The hornbills of Arunachal thus have three sets of parents: the biological parents – the hornbills themselves, local guardians – the Nyishi nest protectors, and the adoptive parents – the urban citizens who support the program financially.
Since the HNAP began, the Nyishi nest protectors have monitored 33 nests and helped 60 hornbill chicks – 20 Great Hornbills, 9 Wreathed Hornbills and 31 Oriental Pied Hornbills – fledge successfully in the forests outside Pakke. What started with three nest protectors from two villages in 2011 has expanded to an operation involving 17 nest protectors from 14 villages and around 150 urban donors. Urban donors have been involved with the Nest Adoption Program in a variety of ways, from volunteering to monitor nests to organizing hornbill festivals in their cities to raise awareness.
Art for Hornbills
This year, Mallika Prakash, an artist based in San Francisco and a hornbill parent is joining hands with NCF to create an art exhibition that will introduce everyone to these beautiful creatures, their habitat and how our actions and inactions affect them. “Art for Hornbills” is an event, which brings together multidisciplinary artists and nature conservationists to create a unique visual art experience. Paintings, illustrations and photos will be accompanied by film and sound – all nestled in an indoor tropical forest. A short film by Adarsh Raju that captures the story of the Nest Adoption Program will be screened. Aparajita Datta, scientist at NCF will talk about hornbill conservation in Arunachal Pradesh and wildlife cartoonist, Rohan Chakravarty, will share his journey about using art and humour for hornbill conservation.
Rufous Necked Hornbill – a painting by Sartaj Ghuman
All of the art at the “Art for Hornbills” event will be available for purchase and 80% of all proceeds will directly benefit the Hornbill Nest Adoption Program. A unique aspect of this exhibition is that most of the art pieces are paired with a single or a couples’ hornbill parent membership. Every piece sold will support the birds, the Nyishi community and the forests of Arunachal Pradesh.
The HNAP’s vision is that adopting nests would lead to urban citizens developing a greater understanding of conservation work and the struggles of the local community in protecting our natural wealth. We invite everyone to be part of this conversation.
“Art for Hornbills” will be held at Chitrakala Parishath in Bangalore on Dec 5th and 6th. Exhibiting their work are painters Maya Ramaswamy, Sangeetha Kadur, June Li, Mallika Prakash, Sartaj Ghuman, Sumit Sinha and Suchitra Sharma; wildlife illustrators Rohan Chakravarty and Arjun Srivathsa; photographers Kalyan Varma, Prasenjeet Yadav and Sandesh Kadur, and filmmaker Adarsh Raju.
For more information, please visit: www.artforhornbills.org
Show your support and RSVP for the event at : https://www.facebook.com/events/1479700615670303/
Venue: Chitrakala Parishath
Address: No.1, Art Complex, Kumara Krupa Road, Bengaluru, Karnataka -560001
December 5th, Saturday, 1PM-7PM
Opening Reception: 3:30PM
‘Hope for Hornbills,’ Talk by Aparajita Datta: 4:00PM
Film Screening: 4:15PM
‘Hornbills and I,’ Rohan Chakravarty: 4:30PM
December 6th, Sunday, 10:30AM-7PM
‘Hope for Hornbills,’ Talk by Aparajita Datta: 12:30PM
Film Screening: 12:45PM
‘Hornbills and I,’ Rohan Chakravarty: 1:00PM
The event is free for all.