Guwahati-based conservationist Bibhuti Lahkar, who had contributed immensely towards Manas National Park, a World heritage Site on the Indo-Bhutan border, remove its “in danger” tag in 2011, was on Sunday voted IUCN’s Heritage Hero, a global recognition that also made him the only Asian so far to win that People’s Choice award.
Lahkar, who was among five conservationists working in three natural World heritage Sites from across the globe shortlisted for the top spot, and his recognition has also brought to focus the status of the Manas National Park that has only recently recovered from a major devastation caused by armed militants in western Assam. The IUCN has also recognized Lahkar’s field-based surveys as among the first to establish that Manas was indeed on the path of recovery. The award was announced at the 2016 IUCN World Conservation Congress in Hawaii, USA.
The other two sets of finalists — Bantu Lukambo and Josué Kambasu Mukura jointly for their work in protecting Virunga National Park in Congo, and Yulia Naberezhnaya and Andrey Rudomakha for their joint actions in the Western Caucasus in Russia were also honoured.
A self-made scientist who is currently the Manas Landscape Administrator for Aaranyak, a Guwahati-based conservation group, Lahkar has intensively studied the grasslands of Manas National Park and is now recognised globally as an expert for the threatened flora and fauna of the Terai region along the southern foothills of the Himalayas.
Also a human-wildlife conflict mitigation expert, Lahkar has showed humans how they can live side by side with wild elephants. Instrumental in empowering over 300 young people to be directly engaged in protection of Manas National Park, Lahkar has also converted several poachers into wildlife monitors, apart from imparting eco-friendly livelihood training to about 100 more youth in the area.