Photo: Kahorpam Horam

The Tāngkhuls relish birds of any kind except jungle crows, house sparrows, and swallows. These birds live mostly in close association and proximity with humans. The Tāngkhul tribe values sharing a home with sparrows and swallows because they believe it brings happiness and warmth to the house.

Despite the traditional hospitality towards these birds, it is observed that their numbers are decreasing considerably. No satisfactory answer has been found for the diminishing population of these three friendly birds. The common people can realize the fast disappearance of these birds because they share the same habitation. However, there are many other species which we do not realize are silently disappearing every year.

According to the Census of Marine Life Scientists, the number of species in the world is 8.7 million. Experts calculated that between 0.01 and 0.1% are going extinct annually, i.e., 870 to 8,700 species disappear forever every year! The uncontrolled use of toxic chemicals, fertilizers, and pesticides presents a serious threat to all forms of life.

Harvard biologist E. O. Wilson estimated that 30,000 species per year (or three species per hour) are being driven to extinction. Most of the causes of this extinction are the direct result of human activity and constitute a direct threat to human well-being, though plenty of animals have gone extinct naturally or due to causes unrelated to human activity. As per the International Union for the Conservation of Nature, worldwide, 12 percent of mammals, 12 percent of birds, 31 percent of reptiles, 30 percent of amphibians, and 37 percent of fish are threatened with extinction.

The Black Panther, locally called kuirāng in Tāngkhul, is no longer seen. It is said that until the 1980s, kuirāng was spotted in many areas in Ukhrul district. Kazingkha̱ (lion), Kha̱rei (leopard), hornbills, and many more animals and birds, which are very common in Tāngkhul tales and folksongs, are no longer seen. The reverberating sound of the hoolock gibbon, locally called uri-urā, has been silenced.

Physical and cultural landscapes are dramatically changing; there is a fast disappearance of flora and fauna, and a rapid change in the pattern of resource use. The area of fertile land has diminished to a large extent in recent years. Monsoons or rains no longer come in their predictable seasons; the frequency of flash floods is growing frighteningly. People witness the dramatic changes taking place: destructive floods and landslides are frequent and common sights for people recently. Most of the rivers and rivulets have dried up, and the wet terrace fields that used to retain water year-round for ages are now dry, fallow, and uncultivable. Some streams that carried men away decades ago are now shallow enough to barely co

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