Eastern Himalaya

Our research is focused on hornbill biology,  interactions between rats, seeds and rainforest trees, tree phenology, understanding patterns and processes in vegetation recovery following shifting cultivation. Past work has focused on monitoring threatened wildlife, understanding anthropogenic effects on wildlife, exploration surveys and management of reserves. Our work with communities has focused on addressing socio-economic needs to enable positive conservation outcomes. 

Hornbill biology and conservation

Tropical forest interactions

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Forests, weeds and farms

Understanding a shifting cultivation system in the Eastern Himalaya

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Rats, seeds and rainforest trees

Plant-animal interactions: seed predation and plant demography


Tree phenology and hornbill breeding

Long-term monitoring of trees, hornbill nests and roosts



Plant-disperser mutualistic networks

Understanding the role of hornbills in plant-disperser networks

Conservation education and outreach



Pakke Nature Information Centre

A new learning and activity centre for visitors to Pakke Tiger Reserve

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Hornbill Watch

Citizen-science initiative celebrating Indian Hornbills

Other Projects

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Endangered bird distributions

Understanding distributions of White-bellied Heron and White-winged Duck 



Linking rural energy and conservation

Linking rural energy and nature conservation in a tribal village 



  • Amiens Zoo Metropole, France
  • Atlanta Zoo, USA
  • Attica Zoo, Greece
  • Chester Zoo (North of England Zoological Society), UK
  • Department of Science & Technology (DST), New Delhi
  • Disney Wildlife Conservation Fund, USA
  • Greater Vancouver Zoo, Canada
  • International Foundation for Science (IFS), Sweden
  • Lagos Zoo, Portugal
  • Nashville Zoo, USA
  • National Geographic Society (Committee for Research & Exploration), USA
  • National Geographic Society (Conservation Trust), USA
  • National Geographic Society (Emerging Explorer Program), USA
  • Planckendael Zoo, Antwerp, Belgium
  • Rotterdam Zoo, Netherlands
  • Rufford Small Grants Foundation, UK
  • The Serenity Trust, Ahmedabad
  • Whitley Fund for Nature, UK
  • Wildlife Conservation Society - NY, USA
  • Wings World Quest (Women of Discovery), New York, USA


  • Book Chapter
    In press
    Top-down or bottom-up: the role of the government and local institutions in regulating shifting cultivation in the Upper Siang district, Eastern Himalaya, India (in press)
    Shifting Cultivation and Environmental Change: Indigenous People, Agriculture and Forest Conservation (Ed: Malcolm Cairns), Published by Routledge.
  • Report
    Hornbill Watch Report June 2014 to February 2017
    Aparajita Datta, Manisha Rao
    June 2017, www.hornbills.in

    PDF, 1.18 MB

  • Journal Article
    Field to a forest: Patterns of forest recovery following shifting cultivation in the Eastern Himalaya
    Forest Ecology & Management http://dx.doi.org/10.1016/j.foreco.2016.01.006

    The patterns of vegetation recovery in shifting cultivation landscapes that undergo a cycle of clearing, cultivation and forest regeneration are not well understood in Asian tropical forests. We determined for- est recovery patterns by comparing species composition, richness and forest structure in early and late fallows formed following shifting cultivation and in an uncut forest site in a mid-elevation subtropical forest in the Indian Eastern Himalaya. We also examined changes in functional traits of tree species to understand recovery processes with succession. Tree species richness in the 12, 25 and 50-year old sites was 37%, 54% and 82% the value of the richness in uncut forest, respectively, while basal area was 33%, 25% and 41% of the value in uncut forest, respectively. Species composition recovery, however, was low; with even the oldest fallow (50-year fallow) being less than 50% similar to uncut forest in terms of composition. Successional sites that recover over long periods may differ compositionally from uncut forest within a shifting cultivation landscape as these forests are often prone to other anthropogenic dis- turbances. Functional trait analysis revealed that early fallows were colonized by tree species that are animal-dispersed, insect-pollinated with small fruits and seeds, whereas uncut forest and late succes- sional forests were dominated by species that were tall, self-dispersed, wind-pollinated and of high wood density that are dominant mature forest species in the Himalaya. These results are in contrast with the patterns in functional traits of tree species in successional sites from the Neotropics. This points to the importance of site-specificity in succession following shifting cultivation.

  • Journal Article
    Shifting to settled cultivation: Changing practices among the Adis in Central Arunachal Pradesh, north-east India
    Ambio doi 10.1007/s13280-016-0765-x

    In the hilly tropics, although shifting cultivation is a widespread practice, government policies have attempted to replace it with other land-uses. However, several factors determine whether farming communities can make the shift. We tried understanding the factors that facilitate or impede the shift to settled cultivation through interviews with the Adi tribe in north-east India. Although settled cultivation was initiated in the sixties, about 90 % of the families practice shifting cultivation, observing 13 festivals associated with the annual agricultural calendar. Our results indicate that the economic status of a household affected the ability to undertake settled cultivation, while labour availability is important for shifting cultivation. Often, these nuances are ignored in government policies. We conclude that future policies should be mindful of cultural and socio-economic factors that affect the community and of the social-ecological resilience of the landscapes and not use a one-size-fits-all strategy.

  • Dataset
    Data from: Spatial and temporal variation in hornbill densities in Namdapha Tiger Reserve, Arunachal Pradesh, north-east India
    DOI: doi:10.5061/dryad.qr068
  • Dataset
    Data from: Field to a forest: patterns of forest recovery following shifting cultivation in the eastern Himalaya. Dryad Digital Repository.

    ZIP, 16.7 KB

  • Report
    NCF Annual Report 2016

    PDF, 13.1 MB

  • Report
    Hornbill Nest Adoption Program - 2016 breeding season
    HNAP 2016 Report

    PDF, 3.74 MB

  • Journal Article
    Abundance estimates of the Rufous-necked hornbill (Aceros nipalensis), and characterisation of a montane subtropical forest in the Indian Eastern Himalaya. 
    Indian Birds, Vol. 12, 4 & 5 14 November 2016

    PDF, 715 KB

  • Popular Article
    An inclusive oil palm policy for people and biodiversity
    Nandini Velho, Aparajita Datta, Anirban Datta-Roy, Mihin Dollo
    The Arunachal Times, November 9, 2016

    PDF, 85.5 KB

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