Monday, April 22, 2024

Is birding tourism ready to take flight in state?


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By Our Reporter

SHILLONG, March 16: Meghalaya is aiming to become a top destination for bird enthusiasts, with efforts under way to develop essential infrastructure and promote bird tourism in the region. The recent Monolith festival marked step towards this goal, as birders of all levels explored the breathtaking landscapes and diverse avian life of Meghalaya.
During the festival, both seasoned and novice birders embarked on invigorating bird walks towards the Umiam Reservoir viewpoint at Mawphlang. It aimed to spark conversations about bird tourism and conservation, highlighting the importance of preserving avian habitats.
Ezra Lawanker Rynjah, an ecologist an avid bird watcher, said, “We observed 27 different species over the 3 mornings of birding. Rusty birders, who came, were enthusiastic to meet like-minded individuals, and resume their birding activities! Additional birding by our team came up with more species including unique ones such as the endemic Tawny-breasted Wren Babbler!”
However, to realise its potential as a bird tourism hub, Meghalaya must address fundamental infrastructural needs. One key aspect is the training and employment of local bird guides who possess in-depth knowledge of the region’s avifauna. These guides can enhance visitors’ experiences by identifying rare species and sharing interesting anecdotes.
In line with this, a recent workshop brought together tour guides and operators from across Meghalaya to explore the nexus between birds, bird watching, and tourism. Led by experts, the session fostered discussions on the potential of bird-based tourism and emphasized collaboration for conservation initiatives.
Additionally, the development of observation points and hides strategically placed near bird habitats would allow birdwatchers to observe birds without disturbing them. Nature trails and walking paths leading to prime bird watching spots would also enhance visitors’ experiences.
Accommodation options such as eco-friendly lodges, guest houses, or camping sites near birding hotspots are essential to cater to the needs of birdwatchers. Improving road connectivity to birding destinations and considering public transportation options further ensures easy access for visitors.
Rynjah also pushed for more scientists and experts to collaborate to help Meghalaya map out bird hotspots and the species which will motivate avian enthusiasts from around the globe.
The workshop also had secondary school students in attendance wherein they were educated about the importance of nature and birds, while a drawing competition encouraged creativity and awareness among the youth.
There also was an exhibition stall behind the amphitheatre of the Heritage Village at Mawphlang where a collection of 40 pictures of birds found and photographed within Meghalaya. The pictures were judged as a part of a competition, and the first prize was bagged by Antony Grossy for his picture of a White-tailed Robin; second by BL Buam for his picture of a Red-headed Trogon; and third by Andy Pariat for his picture of Green-tailed sunbird.
Rynjah added, “The exhibition stall had a completely unexpected reaction from people, many wondering that such colourful and birds were also found within our region! Additionally, I didn’t know the local names for many of the birds on display, but there were many inputs from different people, who actually recognized the birds, and contributed names for them from their respective region.”
As Meghalaya continues to make strides in bird tourism, efforts to develop infrastructure and promote conservation initiatives are essential.
With its stunning landscapes and rich biodiversity, Meghalaya is well-positioned to become a premier destination for bird enthusiasts in the North-East, with collaboration between communities and experts like.


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