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Protection of natural mithun habitat through forest conservation

Mithun is a unique ruminant fount in the North-Eastern hill regions of India, mainly in Arunachal Pradesh, Nagaland, Mizoram and Manipur and also in neighbouring countries like Myanmar, Bhutan, Bangladesh and China. As for now, Mithun is no longer a wild animal, nor is it completely domesticated. They require natural habitat consisting of sufficient dense forest, slopes and water sources away from human settlement.
Mithuns forage on forest grasses, shrubs and trees available in the jungles. They move considerable distances in search of food and do not stay for long at the same place of grazing. They prefer deep and dense forest to avoid bright sunshine. However, with the forest cover in Mithun rearing states showing declining trend touching 9.3 million hectare in 2009 from 11.9 million hectares of 1997, the Mithun population has also suffered immensely. One of the major contributing factors for the reduced available forest area in these regions is Shifting cultivation, commonly known as Jhum cultivation. This method is general practice by all tribal population that account to 80% in the Mithun rearing states. However, faulty practice of Jhuming cultivation may result in continuous deterioration in soil fertility and ecological balance. Thus, to maintain biodiversity, forest conservation is an important step.
With approximately 88% of the forest land in Nagaland under village ownership, engaging community for conservation and protection of forest is key to achieving large scale conservation of forest in Mithun rearing regions of the state. Emphasis should be taken to conserve the natural habitat of Mithun by planting more trees. Water bodies can be developed for fish culture. The forest area can be explored for various valuable products for supporting farmer with sustainable income. This will also help to conserve forest by discouraging deforestation. Initiatives can also be taken by Village Councils to ban forest burning and rampant felling of forest trees which helps in forest conservation.
The Government of Nagaland is presently discouraging Jhum cultivation and identified the unique economic contribution of Mithun as an alternative to Jhum cultivation. This indicates the need of intensification of Mithun rearing in the region not only for the socioeconomic upliftment of Mithun rearers but more importantly to save the biodiversity of nature for over all benefit of the society.

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