Nongin on decline, Jessami declares habitat reserve area

The habitat of Nongin, the state bird of Manipur, covers around 15 km in area. The exact figure of this bird species could not be ascertained though its presence is still intact.

ByRicky Angkang

Updated 31 Jan 2024, 9:09 pm


Nongin, the endangered state bird of Manipur, is reportedly declining in numbers amid change in climate pattern and human encroachment in its habitat. Sensing the existential threat facing the magnificent bird, the Jessami village under the banner of Jessami Village Council stepped in and declared its habitat as a reserve area.

Stating that Nongin species has declined in its range of habitat due to human encroachment, one Misehilo Wezah, 64, a native of Jessami, asserted that declaring the bird species habitat as a reserve area is the need of the hour to preserve the endangered species.

The habitat of Nongin covers around 15 km in area. The exact figure of this bird species could not be ascertained though its presence is still intact.

Jessami village is located in the extreme corner of Manipur’s Ukhrul district bordering Nagaland.

According to the villagers, Nongin (locally known as Tsara) is found in different hill ranges of the village. The village is endowed with rich forest cover and is famous for yongchak (parkia/stink beans), orange, banana and other green leafy vegetables.

The state bird has been in existence since time immemorial. However, the effort to protect Nongin was taken up only a couple of years ago.

It was declared Manipur’s state bird on March 21, 1989 and is included in Scheduled I of the Wildlife Protection Act, 1972. The bird usually resides near rivers with rocky hillsides abundant with scrub forests.

The Nongin is also known as Mrs Hume’s barredback Pheasant or bar-tailed pheasant. The male Hume’s size is about 90 cm while the female is 60 cm and long-tailed.

Commenting specifically on the causes for decline in Nongin number, Umesh Srinivasan, an ornithologist scientist at Indian Institute of Science (IIS) stressed that the main reasons why Hume’s Pheasant is declining across its range is the “loss of its unique habitat and because of hunting.”

Hunting for pheasants is often done using snares, which catch a number of species indiscriminately. Hume’s Pheasant is one of those species that is at particular risk from snaring.


To protect the species, preserving its habitat (oak-pine forest on slopes with grassy understory) is the most important. In addition, within its habitat, the prohibition of poaching is essential.

The Hume’s Pheasant is on the Red List of the International Union for the Conservation of Nature and is classified as Vulnerable to extinction.

Umesh, an ornithologist who has researched birds and spent his life in Northeast India for the last 20 years with his team is trying to find out the difficulties and challenges birds face with climate change and deforestation.

“I have spent 20 years here because the Northeast is blessed with rich biodiversity and the species found here are not found anywhere else in the world. Take Manipur for example, it is the highest biodiversity rich area (not only in the northeast, not only in India but in the world),” he shared.

In India, the area of the NE has the highest biodiversity and it is the second highest in the world, meaning whatever species it has whether it is animals, plants, mammals, snakes, birds, the Northeast comes second in having the most number of species in the world only after South America. That is the reason I kept coming here to research birds. Wherever I researched, I have found rare species like Mrs Hume’s Pheasant,” he mentioned.

On the importance of Hume’s Pheasant conservation, he emphasised that it is a rare and endangered species that has a small global range, and a very small range in India. As a charismatic species that is represented richly in the indigenous folklore of Manipur communities, conserving this species is important not only for the continued existence of the species, but also as a living link to culture, he said.

Lauding the initiative taken up by the people of Jessami, Duna Duo, SDO Jessami, who is also ADM in-charge of Chingai block in Ukhrul district, said that the effort is truly appreciated. The district administration and the state government encourage more villages to initiate more such  bold initiatives which  will be appreciated by the future generations.

Deforestation is happening everywhere which leads to climate change and this initiative will not only protect but promote tourism. This in turn will generate more revenue and provide employment to the locals as well, he added.  

Possible help from the Government of Manipur will be provided to encourage and make this effort a successful story, he further said.

He also expressed his immense gratitude to Dhritiman Mukherjee, Nature, Wildlife and Conservation Photographer Ambassador Roundglass Sustain and Sony India for his support and encouragement. Through his lens and article, it will surely put Jessami in the landscape of wildlife conservation history, he added.  

In its bid to preserve the endangered state bird the Jessami Village Council (JVC) had issued certain guidelines for the visitors to follow.

It directs visitors to stay on marked trails and designated paths to minimise impact on bird habitat. Visitors are directed to observe from a distance to respect the bird’s natural behavior and to use zoom lenses to get a closer look without disturbing them.


It further directs to carry out trash and dispose of it in designated bins as litter can harm birds or attract scavengers that disrupt its habitats.

As part of its effort, it had strictly prohibited guns within the reserve area with defaulters to be fined Rs.20,000 by the Jessami Village Council. It also warned against the use of cameras without permission. The use of flash photography or bright light is also prohibited.

Smoking inside the reserve area is prohibited. All precautions must be taken to avoid accidental wildfires. It also banned play bird call or music while in the community reserve as loud sounds can startle birds and disrupt their natural behavior.

The JVC also asks visitors who chance upon any eggs, nests or young birds to alert
the guide and not disturb them. The main focus is to enjoy and appreciate the birds while minimising  impact on their habitats.

Weyepe N Mekrisuh, who is instrumental in bringing the idea for Nongin conservation, said that the whole concept of the Nongin conservation began with just “an idea that is ambitious and wants to translate itself into many possibilities.”

Talking about possibilities, he said while the blueprint is not yet in place, they have identified some bright spots like promoting battlefield tourism, eco tourism, wildlife tourism, culture tourism, agro tourism. Translating and contextualizing this is a collective effort, he added.

The Jessami Hume’s Pheasant Community Reserve is located in the extreme north of Manipur’s Ukhrul district. It is situated approximately 116 kms north of Ukhrul town and 121 kms east of Kohima. The village is close to the Indo- Myanmar border.

It also offers local taxi service and overnight stay options including tourist lodge and homestay.

The sanctuary serves as a haven for numerous endangered mammal and avian species. Within its boundary visitors can explore elusive creatures such as the clouded leopard, asiatic black bear, yellow-throated laughing thrush, spot-breasted laughing thrush, among others.

Created in 2022, the reserve is a remarkable initiative spearheaded by the Jessami Village Council. Its main objective is to safe-guard the diminishing population of the indigenous and exquisite Hume’s Pheasant, while simultaneously nurturing its natural habitat.

The noble endeavor aims to foster a profound appreciation for biodiversity-a vital foundation for the sustainable future of our indigenous community.


First published:


nonginmanipur state birdhume pheasantjessami

Ricky Angkang

Ricky Angkang

IFP Correspondent, Ukhrul, Manipur


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