The Great Hornbill
Hornbills are large birds, which is spectacular and is known for their awe-inspiring beak. The most prominent feature of the hornbill is the bright yellow and black casque on top of its massive bill. The casque appears U-shaped when viewed from the front, and the top is concave, with two ridges along the sides that form points in the front. They are essential in preserving the forest ecosystems, as they help in seed dispersal of forest plants.
In India, nine Hornbill species are found, namely Indian Grey Hornbill (endemic to India), the Malabar Grey Hornbill (endemic to the Western Ghats), Malabar Pied Hornbill (endemic to India and Sri Lanka) and the endangered Great Hornbill which is widely distributed.
Hornbills are monogamous, females lay their eggs into tree cavities and rest there for two to three months until the eggs are hatched. In the meantime, food is collected and supplied by the male hornbill. Large trees and dense forests are central to their breeding and biological requirements and therefore, they have become especially vulnerable to threats from deforestation and hunting. Out of the 62 species of Hornbills found worldwide, 26 are globally threatened. However, the indigenous communities in Arunachal Pradesh have come up with new strategies to conserve the endangered Great Hornbill.
From Tribal Identitity to Conservation: Nyishi Community now a savior
The Nyishi tribal community have lived in the forests of Arunachal Pradesh for centuries. They live in the dense forests that share the border with the Pakke Tiger Reserve and have had a history of hunting exotic birds in large numbers, including the Great Hornbill.
The Great Hornbill is a magnificent bird that is easily identified by its large and bright yellow beak. It gets its name from the presence of a horn-like projection on top of its beaks known as a casque.
The casque has cultural relevance for the Nyishi community who use it as a headgear. It is mandatory for Nyishi men as a symbol of their tribal identity and manhood, therefore historically Great Hornbills have been hunted in massive numbers. Once hunters, the Nyishi community now participates in the protection and conservation of the beautiful hornbill species initiated by local NGOs and Nature Conservation Foundation (NCF).