Restoring hornbill habitats in Arunachal Pradesh

Pakke Tiger Reserve and the adjoining Reserved Forests in Arunachal Pradesh, India are spread over an area of more than 2000 km2 and harbor a diverse array of plant and animal species. It is known as a haven for 4 hornbill species in India. Human activities like hunting, illegal logging, particularly outside Pakke, are negatively affecting hornbill populations and their habitat. Habitat loss due to logging is a major threat to hornbills that are dependent on large trees for nesting. This area has experienced amongst the highest rates of forest loss for India in the recent past.

With the restoration program, we hope to bring back some of the lost hornbill habitats (by bringing back hornbill food and nest trees) and secure the long-term future of these birds and other wildlife. To this end, rainforest nursery was set up in 2013 in a village near Pakke, with an aim of raising native rainforest tree species and using them to restore the degraded forest patches in and around the area. The tree species selected are important food and nest trees of hornbills and for other birds and mammals and also includes economically important species for planting by the local communities. In the past four years, we have raised around 17,000 saplings of 60 native tree species. Planting began in 2016 and a total area of 11 ha has been covered so far. Survival monitoring indicates 45-85% survival across the sites in a year’s time. Some sites show higher survival (84%) due to controlled conditions like fencing and deweeding. With such successful rate of establishment of the saplings, there is a hope for recovery of these habitats in the long-term. We hope to expand this program and cover more degraded patches in and around Pakke in the coming years.

Hornbill Nest Adoption Program

The Hornbill Nest Adoption Program (HNAP) is a community-based conservation initiative, through which local tribal villagers protect nest trees of hornbills in forests around villages on the fringe of the Pakke Tiger Reserve, Arunchal Pradesh, India. This area is a haven for hornbills, harbouring four of the nine species found in India – Great Hornbill, Wreathed Hornbill, Rufous-Necked Hornbill and Oriental Pied Hornbill. However, these populations are threatened by anthropogenic activities, such as hunting (for meat, casque and feathers) and illegal logging. In response to these severe threats to hornbills occuring outside the Protected Area, HNAP was started in 2012, in partnership with the Arunachal Pradesh Forest Department and the Ghora-Aabhe Society (a local NGO). We currently have 11 local Nest Protectors monitoring and protecting 37 hornbill nests. From 2012 – 2018, 119 hornbill chicks have successfully fledged from our nests. Funds raised from urban donors and zoos who ‘adopt’ hornbill nests go towards paying the salaries of these local villagers, their field equipment and a certain percentage is also set aside each year for community welfare and developmen