Shillong: The Zoological Survey of India (ZSI), a premier zoological organization asserted that faunal diversity and the preparation of health cards are prerequisites for ‘Living Root Bridges’ of Meghalaya – a trailblazer highlighting the botanical & socio-cultural links between nature and human culture, to attain the United Nations Educational, Scientific & Cultural Organization (UNESCO)’s ‘World Heritage Site’ tag.
Director of Zoological Survey of India (ZSI), Dr. Dhriti Banerjee has laid thrust on two aspects for fulfilling the IX and X criteria of the UNESCO World Heritage.
Meanwhile, the Principal Scientific Advisor to the Government of India, Prof K Vijay Raghavan said that Living Root Bridges deserve the UNESCO tag due to its rich micro and macro species associated with the major tourist destination.
Criteria IX – represents sites showcasing significant ongoing ecological & biological processes and development of terrestrial, fresh water, coastal and marine ecosystems and communities of plants and animals.
However, Criteria X – represents sites which contains significant natural habitats for in-situ conservation of biological diversity, including those containing threatened species of outstanding universal value from the point of view of science or conservation.
The ZSI scientists recently visited some sites of the ‘Living Root Bridges’ for assessing faunal diversity, and documented – 83 fauna (six mammals, five aquatic, 72 terrestrials) from the 11 Living Root Bridges. Six species of mammals were reported for the first time from two bridges.
“A fruit bat, Macroglossus sobrinus K Anderson, was found with seeds in spit and seemed to be a potential seed disperser, which needs further investigation. Entomofaunal diversity includes eight orders (two aquatic, six terrestrial) within the radius of 200 metres of Living Root Bridges assessed,” the ZSI said in a statement.
“A Living Root Bridge site, Nohwet, was observed having more diversity of butterflies, dragonflies and aquatic insects than other Living Root Bridges. No infestation of Isoptera (termites) was observed in any of the root bridges. Spider webs were visible on tree trunks,” the statement further reads.
“The expedition to Living Root Bridges helped explore the faunal diversity for providing supporting data towards the recognition of these bridges as UNESCO World Heritage site by strengthening the proposal with inputs of biodiversity and ecosystem services of these biological bridges,” it added.
Recently, while attending the National Convention on Community and Science based Conservation Research and Development of Jingkieng Jri, the Meghalaya Chief Minister Conrad Sangma asserted that “the Living Root Bridge highlights symbiotic relationship between Nature and human culture to a global audience, but more so, it focuses on the need to adopt a balanced approach between economy and ecology, something which the state Government has been working tirelessly in the past few years.”
Locally referred as Jingkieng Jri, the ‘Living Root Bridges’ are conserved by the communities of Meghalaya through their sacred customary practice of preserving the groves known as ‘Law Kyntang’.
According to scientists, ‘Living Root Bridges’ are house to several critically-endangered species of flora and fauna, and therefore is a major reason to be considered as an UNESCO World Heritage site.
Considered to be one of the finest creations, the ‘Living Root Bridges’ are made from rubber tree roots, known as Ficus elastica tree. Their tangled webs of roots provides a stable alternative to wooden bridges.