Astrophysicist Ramana Athreya's discovery of Bugun Liocichla, a new bird species in Eaglenest Wildlife Sanctuary in 2006 delighted many in Arunachal Pradesh.
Nearly 14 years later, the 20-cm songbird with olive-grey plumage and a black cap has become a focus to attract tourists to the frontier state with an aim to offer livelihoods to local tribes and curb poaching and hazardous jhum (slash and burn) cultivation.
Eagelnest Wildlife Sanctuary and Arunachal Pradesh Art & Culture Eco-Tourism Society is flagging Bugun Liocichla and some other endemic birds for tourists to visit a bird festival slated from March 22 to 24 at Rupa in West Kameng district, situated atop 6,000 feet.
The festival would offer the visitors a glimpse of the Bugun Liocichla and several other rare and endemic birds and wildlife species in and around Eaglenest Wildlife Sancuary. "Since the new bird species was discolvered, many ornithologists and experts have been visiting the sanctuary for research purpose as the spectacular bird is found here only. Our purpose is to conserve and promote eco-tourism through this festival. We must provide alternative livelihoods for those living close to the sancuary and others," organising secretary of the festival, Kesang Khrimey said.
The endangered black neck cranes, critically endangered greater adjutant stork, White-Bellied Heron, Nordmann's Greenshank and Spoon-billed Sandpiper are some of the birds that could be the attraction of the festival.
Apart from bird watching, photography and local food, interaction with wildlife experts and tourism entrepreneurs are also part of the itenary.
"We have already got confirmation of participation from experts in the field of nature conservation from the country and abroad, including Anuj Jain of Bird Life Asia (Singapore), Paul Insua-Cao of Royal Society for Protection of Birds, UK and director of Bombay Natural History Society (BNHS) Deepak Apte,” she added.
Eaglenest sanctuary is a pristine birds and wildlife habitat but the traditional practice of hunting, jhum cultivation and forest fire could pose a threat to the state's ecology, where nearly 80% people depend on rural economy including on the forests for livelihood. "We want to give alternative source of livelihoods to the local people through eco-tourism and so we are focussing on the Bugun Liocichla. This spectacular bird can be a game changer for the economy in and around the sanctuary," another official said.
Pune-based Athreya had discovered the Bugun Liocichla in 1995 but it was declared to be a new species of bird only in 2006. Only 14 pairs of the song bird has been sighted so far, officials said.