In a bid to conserve India's easternmost rainforest in Dibrugarh, home to seven wildcat species, authorities are trying to promote the wildlife preserve as an eco-tourism destination by involving the local populace.
The first Rainforest Festival is being held on the banks of the Burhidihing at Jeypore in this district since Friday and tourists, including foreigners, have thronged in large numbers.
The Jeypore rainforest is home to a number of wildlife species, including many endangered ones. So far, 46 species of mammals, 283 species of birds, 276 varieties of butterflies, 102 species of orchids, 71 species of reptiles and amphibians, 70 species of fishes and nearly 40 species of dragonflies and damselflies have been recorded there.
Recently, seven wildcat species were captured on camera in the Jeypore rainforest by a wildlife biologist during a survey by the Wildlife Conservation Society. Various species of valuable trees like are also found in the forest.
DFO Anurag Singh says the primary aim of the festival is to highlight the importance of rainforests.
"Our aim is to develop an exemplary eco-tourism roadmap for Jeypore. And for this purpose, community-based eco-tourism is the best option," Singh said.
According to him, this kind of festivals also gives lot of opportunities to the local people.
"The local people have taken an active part in the festival. They have put up over 100 stalls of handicrafts, artefacts, bamboo products, pickles and ethnic food. Festivals like these help in a long way in generating employment at the local level," he says.
To promote the rainforest and attract tourists, Singh says, some long-term measures will be adopted like more accommodation units, involvement of locals and awareness programmes.
Over these days, the festival has seen the participation of myriad of ethnic groups showcasing their ethnic culture, dresses and food habits. Elephant safaris, trekking, seminars were also a hit.
The other highlights of the festival were display of customary dresses, display of cultural heritage of the local people living in and around these areas, tools, ornaments used by different tribal groups and display of the history of forest, wildlife and their association with local people in their lives.
The rainforest and Dilli reserve forest combine to be the only rainforest area in the state spread across the three upper Assam's districts of Tinsukia, Dibrugarh and Sivasagar comprising a total area of 575 sq km. The forest is listed to be the last lowland forests under the Assam valley wet evergreen forest area in the region.