From 4 to 7 November 2023, birdwatchers will come together in Nagaland to celebrate Tokhü Emong Bird Count by going out and watching birds. From the mountainous wilderness to the arable lowlands, this is the second edition of the Tokhü Emong Bird Count which aims to celebrate the incredible bird diversity and join the Naga communities and bird lovers to care for biodiversity and endangered habitats in the state.
The second Tokhü Emong Bird Count (TEBC) is being organised in collaboration with the Wokha Forest Division and the Divisional Management Unit, Nagaland Forest Management Project (NFMP), Wokha district, and Bird Count India. Partners joining the TEBC 2023 are the Department of School Education Nagaland, Foundation for Ecological Security (FES), and Eco Warriors Nagaland. The event is powered by eBird India with Nikon joining as the equipment partner. This year, the Practicing Food Sovereignty research team from the University of Melbourne, Stockholm University, and North Eastern Social Research Centre also joined as research partners.
This collaboration which includes the government of Nagaland, non-governmental conservation organisations, and educational institutions reiterates the significance of acknowledging Naga community knowledge and their participation in caring for biodiversity. Recognising Naga people’s cultural practices like post-harvest festivals and their language is integral to preserve, promote, and envision a sustainable future.
Tokhü Emong is the harvest festival of the Lotha community from Nagaland. In the Lotha language, Tokhü refers to feasting and Emong means rest/halt on an appointed period. Observed in the first week of November, this festival is about celebration, fellowship, and reconciliation. Sharing the abundance of harvest and hard work, Tokhü Emong is a time to practice gratitude, remember departed loved ones, and invite neighbours and families for food and drink. It is a period when friends and visitors are invited to celebrate the bountiful harvest and showered with hospitality and food. Embracing the spirit of sharing, oneness, and fellowship, the TEBC organisers invite everyone to join and celebrate Nagaland’s bird diversity.
“Nagaland is a state with diverse festivals as well as vibrant birdlife. We live in one of the world’s biodiversity hotspots. The Tokhü Emong Bird Count is the first of initiatives where the Indigenous communities of the state are encouraged to celebrate their festivals with birds. We invite people to reconnect with nature and help rediscover and document this rich avifauna. Birds are seen everywhere and are excellent indicators of environmental changes,” says Lansothung Lotha, Range Forest Officer, Nagaland Forest Department.
“The Practicing Food Sovereignty research team is collaborating with TEBC 2023 because this initiative invites us to adopt birds to reflect on Indigenous culture, agriculture, and what it means to be in a relationship of care with other beings and the land. I believe TEBC allows us to connect and come up with bottom-up approaches that centre Indigenous community engagement and participation,” says Dr. Dolly Kikon, Anthropologist, University of Melbourne.
“Birds are excellent ambassadors of nature. There is no other organism that can sing and dance and still be all around us. Their ability to thrive in our surroundings, from urban places to forests, makes them exceptional representatives of the natural world showcasing the adaptability and resilience of wildlife,” says Mittal Gala, Project Coordinator with Bird Count India at Nature Conservation Foundation.
“Amur Falcons put Nagaland on the world birding map. However, our communities can do more than Amur Falcon conservation. TEBC 2023 is organised to make each one of us feel pride in the nature and birdlife that we have,” says Chenibemo Odyuo, Team Leader, Nagaland Forest Management Project, Foundation for Ecological Security, Phek, Nagaland.
Anyone present in Nagaland from 4-7 November can participate in this event.
The basic activity is to watch and count birds on any/all days from 4-7 November from anywhere in Nagaland, for at least 15 minutes, and upload bird lists to the bird recording platform eBird (www.ebird.org/india). It may be noted that the dates of Tokhü Emong Bird count fall within Bombay Natural History Society’s Sálim Ali Bird Count–a countrywide event. Besides documenting birds, there will be birdwalks and online/in-person talks about birds for interested public, other birders, and school/college students.
While the event is primarily done in Nagaland, everyone living across India and around the world are invited to join the festivities by birding wherever they are. Celebrate the Naga community’s engagement and contribution to care and promote birdlife of Nagaland! More Information: https://birdcount.in/event/tokhu-emong-bird-count/