Borbhuin Chetia village in Assam’s Sivsagar district could well be mistaken for an open-air zoo, what with large numbers of hornbills flying around and happily pecking away at the fruit on the trees the residents have very thoughtfully planted for them. Not surprisingly, it’s even won a green award.
“The hornbills have been living in our village for the last several years. At present there are about 20 of them. They have become a part of the daily lives of the villagers and everyone is engaged in conservation of the bird colony,” said Mridul Burhagohain, a journalist and nature lover.
Nested on a banyan tree near the Demou river that flows by the village, the hornbill colony has become a tourist attraction of sorts with large numbers of people, particularly bird watchers and nature lovers, visiting at different times of the year just to see the birds.
“Assam Bondhu, an NGO, had carried out awareness campaigns about the hornbills a few years back among the villagers and that worked. The people came forward on their own and it became a successful project,” Burhagohain said while adding that the people of the village have planted banana and papaya trees in their backyards so that the birds are not short of food. Occasionally, he said, the villagers also offer meat to the hornbills.
“The hornbills can fly around without any fear in the village. They eat the fruits on the trees generously planted by the villagers. The village has also become an example for many others in adjoining areas,” he said, adding that many a time, the villagers had also treated injured birds and released them later.
“Sometimes, the hornbills are injured by strong winds and during heavy monsoons. There are several instances when we have seen the villagers rescuing the injured hornbills and releasing them after giving them first aid,” said Surjya Kumar Chetia, a youth of the village who teaches at the Women’s University at Jorhat.
“The village has also been frequently visited by people from different places to see the hornbills atop the banyan tree. Bird watchers, as well as students from different universities, also visit the village to study the conservation efforts undertaken by the villagers, which is very unique,” Chetia added. He said that the village and its people were recently conferred the prestigious “Homen Borgohain Green Award” for their efforts towards conserving the hornbills, adding this would encourage them to do even more.
The example set by these villagers in Assam assumes significance considering a recent incident where two medical college students of Chennai had thrown a puppy from atop a building just for “fun” and recorded the whole incident. Even worse, some children had burnt alive three puppies in Hyderabad, repeatedly pushing them back as they tried to escape.
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