Saturday, 23 February 2008

Migam and the Muntjac

Today was the day I visited the village Ramsing after two days at the forest camp, so I thought people from the village and I could watch a movie at Parme bhaiyyas home. While we were half way through the movie I was invited to another friends place who had taken down a barking deer, also called the muntjac, at about 3 pm. I was told its a Serow so I hurried to the place. When I reached, it turned out to be an adult muntjac quite big in size, about 35 kilos in weight.

The deer was shot while feeding on fruits of a tree and the guys waited for it after seeing its hoofmarks. When I saw the body, as usual I was little dumbstruck and kept quiet for a while. I had two paths for conversation in front of me, obviously I couldn't keep quiet, that too after tasting a mug of millet beer. The first path was to ask him why he hunted down the species and if it really is necessary to eat wild meat when meat of pig and high protein mithun meat was available, with the occasional chicken and duck. The second conversation topic was to take in details; as many as I could about this species and others he has hunted down in the last few years. A little buzzed, I went for the latter and the details were fascinating too. The guy turns out to be one of the five expert hunters; a Migam, as they call in the local Adi language, the chief of the village, Solung Apang would also be called a Migam I think.

Ramsing has had the highest turnover of muntjacs this season, since October 2007 the hunters from the village have taken down a hundred of them, its a record for the last five years. The number dwindles between 20 to 60 since the year 2000, with the highest this season. In a sense, I maybe wrong, but it seems the number of muntjacs in the forest surrounding the village hasn't gone down. So I ask him further about Serows and Takins, they are both found close to snow, he said. The Migam told me that once he had seen 5 muntjacs together; a family, which is a large number even for a group. He also reported that he himself has seen at least 10 more individuals in the surrounding forest. He had noted the place where the guy feeds and posted his brother-in-law at another point and both of them sat motionless from 12 till 3 pm. The outcome was a 35 kilogram or more muntjac.
So the broth in the pot was cooking as all the times I have been here and some wild meat cooking in the pot, it also turned out that I was invited to have a sumptuous meal there. I refused the offer, feeling bad since in two occasions earlier I had eaten the meat. However after another two mugs of beer, I tasted a piece of the liver, tasted alright. The conversation went further and the grandma there who actually knows no hindi and I know pittance Adi liked me and named me ‘Ruksan’ after a memory of someone she had seen before. Now at the end of her meal she offered me a piece of the stomach; an offer I could not refuse if I didn’t want to hurt her sentiments, I took it, tasted like high protein sponge actually.

At the end of these events enters my good friend Obit with some kids who had brought a frog to eat, this one...

So I looked at the guy and told my friend, ‘since you have 30 kilos or more of wild meat, can we let him go’ and he smiled and let him go. This was my small victory, king for a day, fool for a lifetime maybe. Both songs by ‘Faith no more’, a super band.
Thats that for now.

Mouling reprise!

This trip to Upper Siang district was really a continuum to the last trip, it ended with a surprise macaque barbeque last time and millet beer, this time to continue with other species-barbeque and other local drinks. This time I approached Ramsing village from the Upper Siang district headquarter Yingkiong accompanied with an MSc junior Robin. So after two days travel we reach Yingkiong and cross the Siang River by a bamboo raft, some pics...

The first picture is of Robin taking pictures of sandbars and the second one is a picture of sandbar with my poorly pixeled camera! The raft was in(de)geniously made with Bambusa gigantica. Although water is welcome from the front it leaves from the back of the raft which has gaps in the bamboo. I was slightly paranoid with my camera, laptop, lens, binoculars and books on board. But we reached, we had to cross only about 40 m but with the Siang, alias Tsangpo in Tibet; a river with a characteristic of rapids, it took about 20 minutes.
So there we were back in slightly familiar terrain. The evening was spent with watcher, Abot who cooked a decent meal which was followed with a decent sleep of 7 hours. The next morning started with a view of snow capped mountains north-east of Ramsing village, perhaps Dibang valley.

The plan of the day was to walk towards an Indian river; the Siring river which originates from Mouling National park. We (me & Robin) did some good birding and reached a 75-100 m waterfall...

The walk was mostly aside rocks and ravines and we spotted about 30 bird species, most of which I had not seen before. The evening was spent at the village homes, one of them being the leader who was just about to prepare his dinner. This is the chief who has been elected to be so by the entire village. He definitely has the panache and the know-how from what I gauge of the last time I met him, here he is, the majestic chief Solung Apang.

The last time I met him I was overwhelmed with the roasting of a rhesus macaque and this time three different species of mammals; one of them probably a parti-coloured flying squirrel (the right most), two hoary-bellied Himalayan squirrels (top and centre) and large species of rodents yet to be identified. It almost feels like I am naming a basketball team or a press meet in order. So the chief first made small-mammal-stew breaking the legs of each of these guys and putting them in the pot and the guys were lined up on top later to be roasted.

Then, I took picture of his catches over the last few decades, hold your breath...

Of the ones I could recognise, there’s wild boar, serow, muntjac, rhesus macaque, langur, Asiatic black bear and god knows what not. I felt a bit giddy and lost as to where does all this stop or whether it does. Whether to raise awareness in city for people to use less electricity, recycle stuff, promote locally-made products OR to tell these communities to spare the rare species, the Serow, Black bear, Clouded leopards, etc. I was a bit lost; perhaps man is just as invasive a species as the IUCN’s list of worlds 200 most invasive species, the list doesn’t feature the one species genius enough to ensure extinction of everything else along with it! Tell me what you think. I am all for the chief except his taste of food!