Tell me what is the first thing that comes to your mind when you hear these words
These words usually make us think of some famous conservationist and/or about government funding.
I mean how can you and me think of conserving the wild life?
Apart from writing about it and holding marches of course!
But what if I tell you that there are many such unsung communities in India that are working collectively to conserve the wild?
Many of these people are uneducated, most of them are poor…
That does not stop them from doing what they are doing and this is what makes them special!
Today, I am bringing three such community efforts across India that are helping conserve and record animal movement and habitat. It also helps keep poachers at bay and boost the breeding efforts.
Godawan (GIB) Community Conservation project
This is a project working towards the conservation of the critically endangered Great Indian Bustard (GIB) in the Desert National Park, Jaisalmer, Rajasthan. This project was initiated by the biologist couple Sumit Dookia and Mamta Rawat, who along with the forest department came up with a plan to involve the villages that live the closest to the Desert National Park.
Wild life conservation can only be effective when the communities along the animal habitat are actively participating in it. Keeping this thought in mind and ensuring that the villagers do not feel threatened by the conservation efforts, 25 young men were identified from the villages for Godawan Community Conservation Project in 2015. These young men were trained and certified by forest department as nature guides.
The people living along the habitat work as grazers, animal herders or have small businesses. Such a certification meant additional income during the tourist season. When inquiries started coming in for certified guides the confidence of these youth grew and they started talking about their work with pride.
The Great Indian Bustard which was a common bird about a century ago, has a population of just 150 today. Of these 122 are found in Rajasthan.
The efforts of the Godawan community has helped map GIB landscape, document spotting and also identify other endangered animals found in the region. They are producing a wealth of real time data that would otherwise not have been possible. How can you help? Be a volunteer or donate
Manoj Gogoi’s NRSB Volunteering Group
Manoj Gogoi is from Assam who grew up in Kaziranga. He has completed his 10th standard but he did not study after that. However that did not stop Manoj from charting a new way of life and helping his community along the way. While most youth prefer to go to bigger cities for work, he decided to stay back and rescue his feathered friends and reptiles. He completed a course from Bombay Natural History Society in Mumbai and then came back to Assam to set up his volunteering team – NRSB
Gogoi pursued his call of rescuing and rehabilitating birds, reptiles and mammals alone for a long time, but his education at Mumbai helped him gain confidence of establishing a volunteering group. NRSB (the Naturalists for Rehabilitation of Snakes and Birds) started with just 15 people and is today a 100+ member team.
Manoj and his team of volunteers rescue and rehabilitate animals while educating the locals about the basic Do’s and Don’t’s when handling a wild animal or bird. This has helped generate general awareness among locals and today instead of killing a wild animal that enters the village, the villagers call this volunteering group for help and support. NRBS has also managed to raise the curiosity and interest in youth about animal conservation. Manoj alone has recused more than 5000 animals already.
His effort has been recognized far and wide and a lot of awards and accolades have come his way.
Bhigwan Migratory Birds Community conservation
We visited Bhigwan during the winter seasons to see the migratory birds that flock to Ujani dam backwaters. This is where we met Sandip Nagare, a soft-spoken local lad with a masters degree and a penchant for bird-watching and photography.
With the backwaters of Bigwan being his backyard, Sandip developed an interest in bird-watching and ornithology. Not having a formal education did not stop Sandip from working towards conservation and protection of the migratory birds.
Sandip started a nature conservation group called AgniPankh with 30 people from his village. He trained these youngsters to be guides for tourists. This has ensured that the community living near the Ujani dam earns an additional income from tourists. It has motivated the villages to protect the natural habitat of the birds and share data with ornithologist.
When we went there, we were taken on a boat ride with clear instructions about the do’s and don’t during the trip. It was heartening to see that the guides were knowledgeable and cared for the birds. They ensured that not many boats went out at one time to ensure that the birds are not hassled by the human activities. You can read more about my experience at Bhigwan- A bird lover’s paradise near Pune.
These are some communities that are working with the government and guiding the world on ways of reducing the human-wild conflict. If we as a community come together to create processes to ensure that the wild does not feel threatened, we still might be able to protect the rich bio-diversity of our country. When we conserve the habitats, we help in fighting climate change.
In today’s times when all we read about is humans encroaching the wild habitat, such communities are building bridges. Have you heard about communities that are working towards protecting the wild?