Nagaland is occupied by about 15 different tribal communities. Each of these communities is culturally distinct from the other and occupies different parts of the state. Nearly 90 per cent of land is under community ownership. About 85 per cent of the state is still under forest cover. Originally hunter-gatherers, these communities have an intricate land-use system, with land distributed between shifting cultivation (communal ownership of land), settled agriculture (private land ownership), and forest reserves (family-, clan- or community-owned) to meet food, fruit, fuel, timber and other needs. Wild meat is an integral part of tribal culture here. Most families own guns and go hunting regularly. Increasing population and heavy dependence on timber and forest produce for livelihood is also impacting the quality of forests. The combined effect of degrading forests and a high rate of hunting have led to a quick decline in wildlife populations, particularly of wild animals. Towards the late 1980s and early 1990s, some realisation about the degraded state of forests began to hit people. Drying up of water resources, declining availability of wild vegetables and declining population of wild animals were among some of the reasons that created debates among many tribal communities.
Phek District was one of the districts where such debates resulted in many decisions and their successful implementation. The district is occupied largely by the Chakhesang tribe, occupying 80 villages. All 80 villages have an umbrella organization called Chakhesang Public Organisation (CPO).1 The idea about preservation of wildlife was continuously being discussed in annual CPO meetings. It was reinforced during the annual meeting in 1999 when Mr. Pusazo Luruo was the chairperson. After much discussion on the issue, the CPO general session adopted the following resolutions for all 80 villages to implement:
1. Ban on buying pork (staple food along with rice) from outside the district. This was done with the intention of saving money and promoting local economy.
2. Seasonal ban on hunting all across the district between 1 February and 31 June (mating season).
3. Ban on fishing with explosives.
4. Ban on indiscriminate burning of forests.
5. Declaration of complete no-hunting zones wherever possible.
By 2005, 23 villages had adopted the resolution for declaring inviolate wildlife reserves. In addition, all 80 villages in the district have accepted the seasonal restriction on hunting and prevention of indiscriminate forest fires. The village councils (VC)2 were held responsible for penalising the offenders in case of violations. Fines are imposed on those found responsible for spreading fires and hunting. Of the total fine amount collected, 50 per cent goes to the informant and 50 per cent to the village body. If the VC fails to check these incidents within their jurisdiction after adopting the resolution, then the CPO penalises the VC for violations. The penalty could include reduction in the village development funds, as the CPO has a say in how the districtlevel funds should be distributed to respective villages.