Traditional hunting and trapping techniques of the natives of North East with special reference to Zeliangrongs
Dr Budha Kamei
The Zeliangrongs are one of the natives of Northeast India. Racially, they belong to the Mongoloid stock and speak the Tibeto-Burman language. Like other native people, they, too, claim their origin from a cave locally known as Mahou Taobei, which is believed to be located somewhere in Senapati District of Manipur. According to another theory, they must have lived with other groups of the same family in South West China about 1000 B.C and migrated to their present habitat through various routes in batches and at different periods. As they were migrating people in the new environment, took shelter at the same cave to protect themselves from environment. When they had settled agriculture life stopped migration; and settled in the West of Manipur present Tamenglong and Noney districts. Now, they are found settled in three states of Assam, Manipur and Nagaland. Their total population in three states is now returned as 4.5 lakhs approximately. In the past, the Zeliangrong people took interest in hunting not only for material consumption, but also for social and cultural needs. Success in hunting was actually prized and thus it had much cultural values. Now, there is no mass hunting culture among the people because it helps in deteriorating the surrounding environment.
Materials and method
Knowledge of both history and anthropology was employed in the study. The necessary data had been collected from available primary and secondary sources. For collection of primary data, some selected well informed native informants of the Zeliangrong community inhabiting in Manipur state were interviewed through unstructured enquiries. Secondary data consisted of books, journal etc.
Man has always hunted. The biggest change in hunting since prehistoric man has been the gradual shift from hunting for life or continued existence to hunting for sport. The main influences for this change were the domestication of animals and the shift to an agrarian economy. Both the factors reduced man’s requirement to pursue wild animals for food. Greater stability in man’s daily life caused him to turn to sources other than hunted game for food.
Continual of hunting culture
However, hunting continues because of its important role in the socio-cultural life of the native people of Northeast. The Zeliangrong people have the practice of hanging the skull of hunting animals and birds on the front wall of their houses. This symbolises the achievement of the house owner. A successful hunter occupies a high status, privilege and prestige in the society. Those successful hunters get opportunities for entry into the high offices of their village politic. It was the dream of every young man to achieve such position Shulaingameipu in their lifetime.
There are factors influencing of continual of hunting culture among the Zeliangrongs. The main factors are personal taste, expertise and various other aspects. It is still found as embedded culture because there can be no other better ways for hunter in welcoming his guest with the hunted game. To meet the need of the family, they sell the hunting animal is another reason. They also hunt animals and birds to stop from devastating their agricultural crops since they depend mainly on agriculture. In addition, transferring the traditional technique of hunting and its application are some of the main reasons for the continual of this culture.
They perform hunting activities on both far and close proximity and in different time and places according to the taste of a hunter. Hunting for a day return plan and more than a day halting in the deep jungle are of two kinds found among the Zeliangrongs. Hunting with close friends is common when it does engage for more than a day. In the distance past, persistence hunting with dog and spear from an individual to community level was the common form of hunting. “A better and larger team of hunters can track much faster than an individual on his own. The difficult task, however, for the tiring hunter is to keep on the right track of the animal since its tracks must be distinguished from those of the other animals. When the animal is still running strongly, this can be difficult, but when it starts to show signs of tiring, it becomes easier to distinguish its tracks.”In fact, it was a test of persistence and physical endurance of the hunter. The commonly hunted animals are boar, barking deer, jungle cat, sambar (Chakhang), mongoose, etc. Bird consists of such as green pigeon, jungle fowl, spotted dove, owl etc.
Calling method is stimulating the natural voice of a species so that instinct brings the game closer. It is also imitating the sound of distress of a species on which the hunted game preys. In the first instance, the desired game comes to one of its kind; thus the technique is most effective during the mating season. Deer and moose can be called by first this method. In the second, the desired species comes because of hunger to the distress call of its natural quarry. The second method can be used in hunting foxes, bobcats etc.
Hunting with animals
Hunting with animals is another method. The Zeliangrong have used this method for centuries. They used local trained dog (Shulaimei Shi) in hunting the deer, wild pig, fox etc. The dogs will start giving bark as soon as they sense the presence of animals. They will follow the animal barking loudly; while the owner of the dogs cheer them on from behind with a deep call almost like a laud in order to encourage them to continue the hunt. Barking of dogs notifies the hunters of the whereabouts of the game and the direction it is taking because the thick forest prevents anything from being seen.
Hunting with spear
Spear (Bui) was an important tool of hunting before the invention of modern weapons. The Zeliangrong people used spear made of wood as it can not only pierce through the body, but also can poison animals to death gradually when they get pierced by it. Hunting with spear is universal.
Trapping is also one of the oldest methods of hunting. There are different types of trap for animals such as Khunthuk-pha (pitfall trap), Keikang-bei (rack fall trap), Rhou-pha (guinea pig trap), Sang-pha (squirrel trap), Sak-pha (spear trap), Jou-pha (monkey trap), Kagang-pha (neck trap for deer), Joukong-pha (neck trap for porcupine), Jouki-pha (drop trap), Thingdang-pha (beam trap) etc. In addition, they use traps for birds like Tengka-pha (leg trap), Pha-sang (noose trap), Bourun-pha (nest trap), Tang-bei (bamboo clapping trap) etc. Pitfall trap is made by digging hole. For big animals like bison, deer, large holes are required; and it is dug from about six to sixteen feet deep.
Pointed sticks are fixed all over the bottom of the holes to get pierced the animals. Then, it is covered with leaves, small branches and earth spread carefully over the top. The animal steps on a thin covering over the sunken area and falls into the trap. Another type of trap, when a deer runs is found leading over some steep bank to a ravine. This bank is then covered with dead leaves which offer no foothold, and are slippery. At the bottom of the shape are placed pointed sticks at the angle of 450 with the ground. A deer or wild animal coming along the run slips at the bank and before it can be pull up it is pierced on the pointed sticks. Among the Lhotas, “Before the making of pitfalls was forbidden by the Government large number of elephants, deer and wild pig were killed by means of them. Elephant-pits were huge affairs, but the ordinary pitfall was about ten feet deep, with the bottom covered with big jagged rocks and panjis, so that any animal which fell in was likely both to have its legs broken and to be impaled.” To be contd