Wildlife week 2020
Raising awareness about wildlife among children

Rahul Ashem *

Butterfly as taken by Sisir Banga :: 2012
Butterfly as taken by Sisir Banga :: 2012

Children must be given awareness on the importance of each wild species. Hunting, trapping or killing leads to the extinction of any species in the wild. The best policy is to educate the importance of wildlife species for future generations.

Sustaining all forms of life on earth is the wildlife theme for the year, 2020. The theme clearly defines the importance of animals as key components of the world's biological diversity. The truth is all forms of small to large species of wildlife are beneficial to ecosystems and services. They are known as the living indicators of the surrounding environment.

The presence of each species marks the places where environmental conditions are the same or different. More importantly, the concept of wildlife week was conceptualized in 1952 by the Indian Board of Wild Life (IBWL) to raise awareness of the long term preservation and protection of faunal diversity in the Indian subcontinent.

The target is to gather accurate information and document the conservation of the wildlife community from the everyday poaching, trading and illegal trafficking. It also involves the planning to save extinction of any species of India. For knowledge, the first week of October is celebrated as wildlife week every year.

Generally speaking, every child knows Kakcheng or Tera Kakcheng (Ants), the sugar eater of every household. The species is adapted well to human habitats that it is seen as a pest by children and gets killed. In fact, ants make good ecosystem indicators because of their interactions with many other species. They aerate the soil allowing water and oxygen to reach plant roots and even clean the environment by feeding on organic waste, insects or dead animals.

The story of Ants and Grasshopper reminds the hard work of ants at one time. By the way, where is the Grasshopper (Koujeng) now ? The species is everyone's favourite during childhood days, tied at the end of their legs to make them fly. No one even realized the benefits of this species in the ecosystem services in the past.

Be careful children, the grasshopper is one of the important species in recycling the scarce food requirements for plants. Lai Sagol (Millipedes) is another repellent species to mankind. The unique physiological structure of this species is such that it becomes any easy prey to get killed. The very name Centipede hints the essence of the species ascenti means hundred.

The centipedes consume a tremendous amount of soil dwelling larvae. Their tunnelling aerates the soil, allowing water and nutrients to reach the roots of plants and grasses. The species, Nachan (Centipede) looks awkward and considered as one of the scariest species. Never sleep on the floor, Nachan will enter your ears is still heard by everyone of Manipur. The Ching nachan is used for cancer treatment, traditionally.

The next species is Khoi (Bee), different species of which are found in the State. They represent fantastic symbols of nature. Bees are known as the world's most important single species of pollinator in natural ecosystems and a key contributor to natural ecosystem functions. It will be good for the children to watch the 2007 Bee movie about the exploitation of honey at the hands of mankind.

The noisy cicadas (Harinongnang) also give trees the service of releasing a vast amount of nutrients back into the soil. As bad as they seem to humans, Kharambi (Cockroaches) regulate the levels of nitrogen in the forests allowing plants to grow. Kurak (Butterfly) acts as a pollinator and as a food source for other species, acting as an important connector in a thriving ecosystem web.

 Fauna of Manipur as captured through the lenses of Elvis Ngangkham :: July 7 2012
Fauna of Manipur as captured through the lenses of Elvis Ngangkham :: July 7 2012

To keep things in balance, Hunggoi (Frogs), Numityungbi (Salamanders/Calotes), Uchi (Rats/Mice), Lin (Snakes) play both roles of predators and preys. Furthermore, Mirang (Spiders) are an important food source for a variety of birds, lizards and wasps.

The flyers, known as birds (Uchek) , help in pollinating flowers, disperse seeds, nutrient cycling and modify the environment in ways that benefit other species.

Some common birds are Sendrang (Sparrow), Sengbang (Swallow), Urok (Cattle egret), Urengkonthou (Waterhen), Lam Khunu (Pigeon/Doves) etc. Besides, pets like cats and dogs (Houdong, Hui) have many benefits and environmental impact. Traditionally, most of the wild species is closely associated with our legendary beliefs and our folklores, with our epics and our history.

The story of Tokpa Meisangba (wild cat having long tail) and Waba-chengacacha(a kind of pheasant bird) has been an integral part of traditional folk tales.

Likewise, the story of Nongoubi, Houdong Lamboiba amasung Pebet, Kabui Keioiba, Huiga Meega Leiminnakhiba, Pi Thadoi, Leisabina Uchek Langmeidong Onkhiba, Kei na Tokpa Pokpra etc are other transit ethical, religious and philosophical knowledge to the Meitei community. Moreover, large carnivore species like Kei (Tiger) are either extinct or rare in Manipur.

Once described as the only floating National park, Keibul Lamjao is home to this big feline species, as the park name itself defines. No leopard (Kabokkei) is seen anymore. Some years back, a Black Panther was killed in Kachouphung khul, near Ukhrul Myanmar border. Smaller felines like Keijenglang (Leopard Cat) have lost their natural habitat over the last decades in Manipur.

Their numbers have correspondingly declined and many remaining populations are now isolated and confined to remote areas. Besides, Clouded leopard, Golden cat (Tokpa), Jungle cat (Lam houdong) and Fishing cat are rarely seen and are difficult to observe at present. Historically, the State is also home to Samugandha (Javan and Sumartra) rhinoceros until the beginning of the 20th century.

As reported, the presence of Sumatran rhino was seen in the Anko range of Ukhrul district. The Tangkhuls name the animal as Selho and is said to have encountered stray individuals as recently as the early 1990s (Aleng, pers. comm). Now, the Sumatran rhinoceros is perhaps the most endangered large mammal in the world with an estimated population of not more than 300 in the wild.

Similarly, the Anko range in Manipur had about 50 elephants in the past, which is contiguous with those of the Somra tract of Myanmar. Manipur has only eight (8) elephants left in the wild and still yet to be confirmed.

Many conservationists also calculated the presence of small herds of elephant in the Barak valley. There are many more species that need to be identified so that the next generation knows the benefits of wildlife and their importance in the ecosystem and services.

Basically, children need more awareness of wildlife sciences at present. More often, children living in urban areas find it difficult to identify the smaller insects found in urban spaces. Frankly saying, the scenario of urbanization and new technology diverts their minds from the surrounding environment.

New buildings and other infrastructure destroy the small water bodies, urban wetlands and ponds which in turn disturb the homes of many wild species.

At the same time, the change in climate, deforestation and other natural factors lead to the emergence of a new insect, Khayi (local name) seen in crops and other vegetables. Therefore, this 2020, every children must be raised to be aware on the various dangers being faced by wildlife.

The main reason for their extinction or their classification as vulnerable or endangered and the measures people can contribute towards their conservation should be instilled in everyone's mind. Every child must know the issue of wildlife conflict at an early stage of their lives. It is good to raise sufficient awareness among them.

As a conservationist, the concept of chaos theory, the butterfly effect, small change in one place creates unexpected changes somewhere else can change the ecosystem and services at any time of the year.

* Rahul Ashem wrote this article for The Sangai Express
The writer can be reached at benthhook(AT)gmail(DOT)com
This article was posted on October 08, 2020.

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