At a recent meeting in Kohima, Nagaland, a senior wildlife biologist asked about the viability of eco-tourism as an income source at multiple locations in places like Nagaland and Meghalaya. The demand is, as of now, low due to remote locations and the way these states are projected in the media. There were other questions too: How many tourists can be expected in these not easily accessible areas? Can wildlife-based tourism take off in places where dense vegetation does not help mammal sightings? At that point, we were discussing Community Conserved Areas (CCA) in Nagaland and exploring potential sources of income for the people who are the custodians of the amazingly rich biodiversity in these areas.
A few weeks later, we found ourselves reviewing an eco-tourism initiative: the Samrakshan Trust’s community-based conservation initiative in Baghmara (Garo Hills, Meghalaya). Campsites have been set up at Siju and Gongrot villages with focus on butterfly tourism. These lie in the Baghmara Balpakram area that also houses the Siju Wildlife Sanctuary (WLS), Baghmara Reserve Forest (RF) and the Balpakram National Park (NP). A landscape with few equals in the area of biodiversity values, it is also an Important Bird Area (IBA) and Elephant Reserve (ER).