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Attitudes towards forest and wildlife, and conservation-oriented traditions, around Chakrashila Wildlife Sanctuary, Assam, India

  • Simi Talukdar (a1) and Abhik Gupta (a1)

We examined attitudes towards forest and wildlife among Rabha, Bodo and Rajbongshi communities from three villages in the Chakrashila Wildlife Sanctuary of western Assam, India. The study was conducted through open-ended and structured interviews, focus group discussions, and participatory rural appraisal. The respondents identified availability of forest products, biodiversity conservation and the aesthetic beauty of the forest as the major justifications for the establishment of Chakrashila as a protected area. They also believed that people and wildlife could coexist peacefully, although some respondents did not have a cordial relationship with Forest Department staff. Most respondents were favourably disposed towards the golden langur Trachypithecus geei because it did not harm anybody or damage crops, and because of its shining coat and its exalted status in their religious beliefs. They were antagonistic towards the rhesus macaque Macaca mulatta because of its crop-raiding habits, although they were averse to killing it. Most respondents did not want to relocate because they lacked skills and resources and had associations with the forest, where they maintained sacred groves and observed taboos on hunting and plant resource extraction. Thus, the attitudes of the communities were governed not only by their material needs and priorities but also by their deep-rooted cultural–religious bond with the forest. These matters would benefit from being incorporated into forest management strategies in developing countries.

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