Case Study: APARAJITA DATTA
The driving force behind Aparajita’s eorts towards wildlife conservation and community development are the Lisu people itself, who have inhabited and lived in the lands long before any ‘National Park’ or ‘Tiger Reserve’ was created.
Back in 1995, Aparajita arrived at Pakke Tiger Reserve, to study the impact of logging on arboreal creatures like squirrels and primates. Before arriving at the Tiger Reserve, Aparajita was working on wildlife projects that involved tracking Indian Wolves in Gujarat and researching on Indian Giant Squirrel in Madhya Pradesh. Aparajita also radio-tagged and tracked rainforest hornbills in Thailand in 1999, during which she learnt about canopy climbing skills.
Today, a Wildlife Biologist, Senior Scientist and Board Member with Nature Conservation Foundation and member of the National Tiger Conservation Authority, Aparajita has a long list of accomplishments on her back, involving community development and safeguarding
wildlife, especially hornbill conservation with an experience spanning for more than 20 years. Aparajita has worked on various ecological aspects, especially plant-animal interactions in rainforests, understanding anthropogenic eects on wildlife and engaging with tribal communities for conservation. Aparajita completed her doctoral work on the importance in the role of hornbills as seed dispersers in Arunachal Pradesh. A few of the notable projects that Aparajita has initiated or been a part of are the Hornbill Nest Adoption Program, Hornbill Seed Dispersal and Conservation Program, Hornbill Survey across North-east India and the Rural Energy and Conservation Program.
Aparajita was also the recipient of the Green Oscar Award – Whitley Fund for Nature in 2013, for which she received prize money of 30 lakh rupees, and she is utilizing the funds to identify and protect hornbill nests across India. According the Aparjita, the driving force behind her eorts towards wildlife conservation and community development are the Lisu people itself, who have inhabited and lived in the lands long before any ‘National Park’ or ‘Tiger Reserve’ was created.
Social Impact: Aparajita has relentlessly worked along with the Lisu tribe in facing social and conservation- related challenges in and around Namdapha National Park, Arunachal Pradesh. She has been involved in setting up schools for the tribal children, building river embankments to stop erosion of agricultural land, and also provided solar lamps to local community members so that they are less dependent on batteries and kerosene. Aparajita and her team have also helped provide tribal community members with fuel-ecient stoves and water heating devices. Aparajita has facilitated the tribal community with free healthcare and trained a few tribal community members to carry out primary medical procedures, to combat the problem of diseases like malaria that are widespread among Lisu people and other tribe members in North-east India. Aparajita has also helped in securing funding forteachers and for providing school supplies to the schools for tribal children that she helped set up. She has also co-authored more than two books for children on hornbills and rainforests. And has also helped create educational material to promote Indian Wildlife among young readers. Economic Impact: Aparajita is involved in the marketing of local handicrafts made by tribal community members. And along with the Lisu tribe
members, she is also undertook nature tourism initiatives for creating livelihood opportunities towards the local community. Ecological Impact: Aparajita has worked towards the conservation of hornbills in North-east India. She has created community and social science-based conservation models to improve the population of hornbills in North-east India. Aparajita has worked extensively with the Nyishiand Lisu tribes of Arunachal Pradesh and the State Forest Department to initiate the community- based programme of adopting and conserving hornbills of North-east India, particularly inNamdapha and Pakke Tiger Reserve. Her hornbill nest adoption program and other wildlife-based projects are being nancially supported by National Geographic Society, the Disney Wildlife Conservation Fund, Ford Foundation and from urban citizens who act as foster parents by adopting hornbill nests. Aparajita was part of the team that discovered the Leaf Deer (Muntiacus putaoensis) in Arunachal Pradesh back in 2002. She was also part of the team that discovered the Arunachal Macaque (Macaca munzala), a new primate species that was discovered from western Arunachal Pradesh in 2005. Aparajita also studied foraging patterns of sympatric hornbills in non-breeding season in Arunachal Pradesh.