Development Of Wildlife-Watching Areas

While Sikkim is acknowledged as a biodiversity hotspot, the market segment that is interested in wildlife such as mammals, birds, and butterflies has not been properly exploited. 

Implementation of Area Surveys and Selection of Locations
Based on the wildlife baseline surveys and research for the development of the biodiversity information base, some locations with high probability of sighting mammals along the trekking routes, and other areas will be selected for the establishment of wildlife-watching areas, which should be located in Buffer Zone or outside the Protected Areas in accordance with the management plans. For bird-watching, easily accessible sites with reasonable number within a maximum of one hour?s journey from the accommodation will be developed. Members of the Sikkim Ornithological Society will be contracted to carry out a survey of birding areas. This survey should be carried out in two stages. The first part of the study will take place in winter for a period of 15 days. The second part of the survey will take part during the breeding season over a one month period. The purpose is to identify local areas suitable for birding and the types of birds that can be seen. A total of three areas will be identified for butterfly-watching. An expert from the Bombay Natural History Society and an expert from a specialist tour operator will spend two weeks in Sikkim to advise on the locations and spots that have been identified and whether these are suitable for butterfly-watching tourism.

Preparation of the Areas for Wildlife-Watching
Once an area is selected, it should be prepared carefully to enhance the wildlife-watching experience. However, the development must be unobtrusive, and the emphasis will be on not disturbing nature. Therefore no construction is recommended within the area, including watch towers, which are often built in other birding areas. A firm will be contracted to trace these paths following the advice of the experts.

Training of Wildlife-Watching Guides and Purchase of Equipment
Once an area is selected, the local community members will be trained as guides. Training will take place over about 15 day period. The guides will be supplied with good quality binoculars and field guide books.

Marketing of Wildlife-Watching Areas
One of the main actions will be for the EMC to invite domestic and international tour operators for an exposure trip so that they are made aware of the wildlife-watching opportunities in Sikkim. This will be funded out of the EMC?s public relations budget with contribution in-kind from the industry.