With the motto of ‘No Birds, No Life’, the Chongnga Trust started their journey of wildlife conservation in 2013 with the objective of protecting the Great Myna. The Manipur-based Chongnga Foundation, established by Mr. Bankimchandra Singh, observed a pattern signalling a decreasing number of sightings of these migratory birds since the 1980s. Mr. Singh, who is an avid ornithologist, was introduced to the great wonders of the Great Myna, in search of nesting sites in the spring, by his beloved grandmother. His childhood fondness for these birds persuaded him to establish the Chongnga Foundation for their conservation. With a strong support from local community members, the Foundation has made a remarkable effort towards protecting these birds and also increasing their numbers by materialising unique initiatives such as designing specialized nesting pots. With these targeted efforts by the Chongnga Foundation, the number of mynas flocking around in the area has increased from 10-20 to a few hundred. The Great Myna is a small, black-coloured bird with a spiky crest, a bright yellow bill, and a distinctive white vent. The bird can often be seen resting on livestock and nesting in the hollows within tree trunks. Their habitat includes meadows, fields, and urban gardens, where they forage in flocks, often with other species of mynas and starlings. They are a frugivore that feeds mostly on raw fruits or succulent fruit-like produce of plants such as roots, shoots, nuts, and seeds and has a special affinity for ficus fruits. Owing to this, myna has contributed to the regeneration of these keystone tree species by helping in seed dispersal. The bird is mostly seen in Imphal along the stretches of the riverbank, extending for about 10 square kilometres in the Thongngam Modum Reserve Forest area. The birds are often sighted when the farmer’s plough disturbs insects, demonstrating an association between the nesting season of the Great Mynas and the paddy’s growing season.

Need for the Initiative

Mr. Bankimchandra setup earthen pots on tree branches to simulate a hollow in an old tree that mimics the natural nest of these birds in the wild. This is being practiced as relayed to him by his grandmother, beautifully indicating how the traditional knowledge system is orally transmitted down the generations, especially in our complex tribal societies. This traditional knowledge system holds pearls of wisdom guiding us to protect our nature. The organisation actively discourages the use of pesticides and prevents trapping and poaching thus promoting a holistic approach to conservation while arousing the sentiments of the locals. These actions have also brought about a transformed attitude and has created a positive perception amongst the locals especially the farmers about the need to conserve these bird species. Relentless efforts of the organisation have led to the locals realizing the importance of the birds as “Friends of the Farmers”. Moreover, these endeavours have successfully discouraged the local community from hunting the bird for sport. Along with this, these initiatives have simultaneously enhanced the livelihood of the locals. While the local potters and artisans have been engaged in designing and moulding the clay-made nest pots, the local tree climbing skills are being used for the installation and maintenance of these nest pots. This has made the whole process a conservation movement at the community level.

Conservation Initiatives and Impacts

The Foundation has caught the attention of enthusiastic bird watchers, ornithologists, and experts who have lent their support to this initiative. Since placing the specially designed nesting pots in appropriate locations is critical to successful breeding to provide what the bird needs for raising a family. The design of the dual pot has been made specifically for this purpose. The outcome has been highly successful, and the population has been greatly enhanced. 1,700 artificial nests have been distributed in these areas till 2019. The remarkable contribution of conserving and successfully supporting the breeding of the birds has been recognised by the District Forest Officer. The forest department felicitated the organisation for its conservation initiatives with the best prize for conservation during the wildlife week celebrations in 2018, held in Imphal. The enthusiasm and grit of the organisation and the local population promises an optimistic future ahead. Recently, the eminent jury team at the wildlife week provided scientific datasheets for enabling documentation of nesting success in different areas. This has been used in the monitoring of over 50 nests of mynas which would further enhance the documentation process. To consolidate the progress in a scientific and sustainable manner, more organised and planned initiatives need to be chalked out. These include:
• The organisation approaches and connects with universities and college institutes or interested parties to garner support for well-organised and proper documentation on nesting successes, monitoring the population growth of the birds, and augmenting further scientific research as per requirement.
• Distinct and specific outcomes of the initiatives undertaken to conserve the bird need to be properly measured.
• Significant natural and anthropogenic threats to the bird species need to be addressed.
• A proper channel for funding in a systematic manner must be identified for sustaining the conservation action in the long run. The organisation has done commendable work for the conservation of Great Myna. These activities need to be further replicated in other parts of the region in a holistic manner if we are to witness successful conservation throughout

Recognition in india biodiversity awards-

Conservation of Wild Species -WINNER 2021