The wildlife reserve in Sendenyu village, about 1 km down the hill, was formed as a result of discussions initiated in the village council (VC) by some village members who had studied outside the state and are currently serving as government officials. These members were good hunters themselves, but decreasing wildlife population became a grave concern for them. The village elders immediately understood their concern, as they had themselves witnessed a very sudden decrease in wildlife populations within their lifetimes. The discussions, therefore, soon resulted in the creation of about 10 sq km of wildlife reserve. The objective was to conserve and protect the rich wildlife heritage of the village and to maintain ecological balance as also to check local extinction of wild animals. The VC selected the land for the reserve based on its low productivity, high gradient and rocky geology. The land belonged to the individual owners and was used for timber and firewood collection. The owners originally objected to the plan but were persuaded by the VC to donate the land for the larger cause. In return, the owners received LPG connections from the forest department under Forest Development Authority (FDA)1 funds. Similar other benefits for the landowners are being considered by the VC. Subsequently, the VC has passed a Sendenyu Village Council Wild Life Conservation Act, 2001 (see Annexure 1). The declaration of ‘Sendenyu Village Wildlife Protected Area’ was announced in a written resolution on 1 January 2001, along with a map specifying the boundaries of the protected area (PA). The Act specifies that the PA will be managed by a committee consisting of one chairman and one secretary, with gaon buras (village elders) and presidents of the Youth Organisation, Sendenyu VC and New Sendenyu VC as the ex-officio members of the committee. The committee also has some advisers. The Act is subject to make amendments from time to time with the approval of the maximum representation of Sendenyu general public.
Although the elders talk about a much thicker forest and an extensive diversity of animals in the past, the village still harbours some populations of barking deer, Asiatic black bear, sambar, wild boar and many species of birds. Villagers have taken up plantation of cherry trees to attract birds, and have fenced off a part of the area to prevent grazing. In addition, the villagers contributed to pay compensation to the church to move out their cattle camp from the wildlife sanctuary. Realising that animals cannot be protected in small islands, the village brought in an amendment in January 2005 to also declare the forests surrounding the hunting reserve (owned by individual families) as a no hunting-zone, although all other uses are allowed here. The period between February and the end of monsoons has been declared a ‘no hunting’ period in the entire village. Additionally, hunting of sambar is banned throughout the year within the boundaries of the village. Hunting in prohibited areas and seasons attracts heavy penalties. The fines vary depending upon the species hunted. For example, the fine for hunting a sambar is highest (Rs 5000), as the sambar population is rapidly decreasing in the village. The village had a bounty on wild dogs or dhole (Cuon alpinus) for a year. Their contention was that wild dogs were responsible for decreasing the sambar population. However, they soon realised that wild dogs were very much a part of the ecosystem and the bounty was withdrawn.
The Wildlife Protection Committee has taken up a number of activities in the years 2004 and 2005. These include, among others, regular monitoring of the prohibitions, plantations of fruit trees to attract birds, fencing of some vulnerable areas, erecting signboards about the rules and regulations for the sanctuary.