Villagers living in fringe areas of Kaziranga National Park in Assam are these days learning some new skills. These are not going to directly impact upon their lives, but are sure to contribute to protection of wildlife. They are learning how to protect and rescue wild animals and reptiles of the park during the flood season.
“A large number of animals like rhinos, deer, hog deer, boars, and snakes and other reptiles come out of the park when it gets inundated by the Brahmaputra, and take shelter in villages surrounding them. That is the time some people, including poachers, try to catch and kill them. We are trying to motivate the villagers to immediately raise an alarm and inform the forest department,” said Prasanta Kumar Saikia, secretary of Seuj Yuva Sangha, a youth club of Bohikhowa village located on the eastern edge of Kaziranga.
With the Centre for Wildlife Rescue and Conservation (CWRC) providing the technical know-how, local groups like Seuj Yuva Sangha as well as other NGOs are helping conduct awareness programmes on how to protect and save animals in distress during the floods.
Three such programmes have been already completed in the past one week, with women and school students showing maximum interest in it. A joint initiative of the Assam forest department and Wildlife Trust of India (WTI), the CWRC in Kaziranga incidentally is the only such centre in India.
“My students and teachers are very happy undergoing training on how to rescue and protect animals of Kaziranga during the flood season. They had so many questions when the trainers came to our school,” said Mamoni Hazarika, headmistress of Dhansirimukh Janajatiya High School, which has over 500 students.
While the CWRC team, accompanied by local Range Officer Mukul Tamuli, also distributed banners, posters and booklets on the do’s and don’ts about animal protection and rescue, headmistress Hazarika got the boys in particular to take a pledge that they would give up their catapults as the fist step towards loving wild animals and birds.
“We have imparted them training on various aspects like passing information to the right persons, keeping a watch on the animals’ movements, preventing people from getting closer to animals, and keeping an eye on suspicious people,” said WTI deputy director Rathin Barman, also a well-known conservationist.
“I am happy the forest department and the NGOs have made us partners in wildlife conservation. I will sure be a volunteer during the floods,” said Tarun Bori, a Class X student of the school. The forest department, along with CWRC and NGOs require a large number of volunteers to work in shifts on the 56-km stretch of National Highway 715 (also Asian Highway 1) that forms the southern boundary of the park.