Holland scholar prepares English database of Lepcha bird names

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Gangtok, Dec 28 (UNI) Being born naturalists, the Lepchas, the indigenous tribal community nestled in the Sikkim Himalayan region posses a vast undocumented dictionary of the rich biodiversity in their natural habitat. And this aboriginal knowledge is being documented in English by a Holland researcher in form of a Lepcha-English dictionary.

Dr Helen Plaisier from Leiden University has just finished a year's work of study by putting up a preliminary English database of around 300 Lepcha bird names found in the Sikkim Himalayan region, one of the four biodiversity hotspots of India.

The Lepcha people are said to born naturalists and it is often claimed that their language has names for all the birds, plants, butterflies and other insects in their native habitat.

Having worked with around on the Lepcha language for over a decade, "I decided to put this statement to a test and started by looking into bird names in Lepcha", Dr Plaisier told UNI today in Gangtok. She said that the list was prepared through referring documented works, visiting and interacting with the Lepchas from Kalimpong and Sikkim.

The linguist said that she will be corroborating the database with ornithologists and local Lepcha folks. Dr Plaisier has already taken out a book 'A Grammar of Lepcha' as a part of her thesis with Leiden University.

The bird list is a part of the Dr Plaiser's Lepcha-English dictionary which is a five-year project. "The dictionary will be based on unpublished Lepcha manuscripts I found in London.

Hopefully, it will contain all the things", she said.

Sikkim Ornithologist Society (SOS) offered to extend all help to the researcher and said that the English-Lepcha bird name database will be invaluable to tourism and preventing the loss of the indigenous knowledge.

"It is very important. We are fast losing out the local names", said Usha Lachungpa, a SOS member and a state wildlife research officer. With specialized tourists coming to Sikkim, the local guides can be empowered with both English and local names of the bird species of the state, she said.


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