3D-Print, Animal Parts to Save Live Animals
By Our Wildlife Correspondent
Wild animals and birds look attractive because of their unique body parts. But this is also one of the reasons for which the exotic rare wild animals and birds are killed. It has especially happened in case of tigers which were on the verge of extinction even a few years ago. Most parts of the big cat are prized. But among all its parts its teeth are most sought after ironically for snob value by none other than some ethnic tribes. In Arunachal Pradesh which has a good number of tiger population its menacing teeth are used by the largest Nyishi tribe. They fix the tiger teeth in their matchets.
This Nyishi community wields a machete fitted either with the short, squat jaw of the clouded leopard or the much larger one of a tiger which is rather preferred. He also traditionally dons a byopa, an elaborate hand-woven cane cap with the upper beak and casque of a great hornbill attached to the top edge, and an eagle’s claw at the back. There is a cause behind this traditional practice - The tiger rules the jungle. The eagle rules the sky. Wearing their parts implies inhabiting their mighty spirit, protecting the people. It is a status symbol.
Despite an increase in numbers the big cats in the country, the hill state, is left with only 29 tigers as per latest census. Neighbouring Assam has 167 and other states have in hundreds. The hill state recently lost 70 percent of its tiger population in the recent past.
But hunting rare animals for their body parts when wildlife numbers are declining in the state has always troubled Nabam Bapu, a young entrepreneur from the same Nyishi tribe in Arunachal Pradesh. Three years ago, he teamed up with his friend Anang Tadar, a tech innovator and Bapu’s wife joined later. They tried to provide an alternative to the traditional headgear by replicating the animal parts including tiger’s teeth using a 3D printer.
It took us two years to source raw materials for the product- synthetic resin, plastic materials, wood and fire-resistant glass. The enterprise is one of a number of projects worldwide that aims to protect the traditions of local communities while also protecting animals from being killed for their pelts and parts. Once a month in Arunachal Pradesh, the trio hike along miles of dirt rough roads to take their latest samples to their village elders for consultation. It is important to have the village elders check on their quality as only they can give the right approval on their proximity to a real animal part as they have been hunting for ages.
So far, Arunachal Ivory and Ornaments, the startup company launched by Bapu has produced more than 100 replicas of the milk-white teeth of the tiger/ clouded leopard, the off- white teeth of wild boar, and the neon-yellow talons of the eagle. They are currently working on 3D printouts of a great Indian hornbill’s beak. Use of replicas of animal and bird parts is more important since the state’s tribes fears that their culture and traditional practices are on the wane.
For this the state government encourages students to wear traditional dress every Friday and for government workers to do so once a month. As a result, wild animal parts remain in high demand. The price of tiger teeth is also quite high anywhere from four to five lakh rupees in black market. In many cases fakes are used. While the authorities are trying to combat poaching and the global illegal wildlife trade – the state shares international borders with Myanmar in the east and China in the north – monitoring poaching activities can be a daunting task. Arunachal Ivory and Ornaments is hoping to play its part in the fight against this illegal trade. Bapu is sure that his company can make a difference.