Manna For The Storks

By Richa Baruah

Panchamrit, in assamese, refers to a porridge prepared by mixing five ingredients that are considered manna for the body. The porridge is especially fed to expecting mothers, in a ritual celebrating it through “naam” (Assamese prayer songs) and termed the same as the porridge – Panchamrit. The significance of this ritual, though primarily focussed on the holy porridge, exceeds to far more. The panchamrit signifies the event which rejoices the coming of a new baby in the family.

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On the 12th of November 2015, we gathered at the village of Dadara, in Kamrup district, Assam, India to celebrate the coming of new babies; the babies not just of a family but that of the community- babies of the Hargilas (local name for the Greater Adjutant Storks) residing there! At first, it may seem a tad bizarre, but rest assured, it was no whim. Every year has been witness to more than 40% of nest fallen hargila death in the form of deceased chicks. The cause of death varies from natural reasons to lack of human concern. In such a situation, a campaign was initiated collectively by the Dadara villagers & Aaranyak to create awareness about the deaths of the chicks and how to curb it. Coordinator of greater Adjutant program Purnima Devi Barman, research biologist from Aaranyak, popularly known as Hargila baideo, worked with the villagers and came up with the idea of Hargila Panchamrit.

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“Tradition plays a very important role in the lives of the common masses. So, to motivate such thousands, a traditional approach goes a long way towards success”, Purnima Barman commented. “People not only from the village but also many of my colleagues laughed at me when I invited them for Panchamrit of Hargila, “Stork baby shower”"….but once they joined they were emotionally sensitised and truly participated in the event. Purnima added, “… now I feel glad conservation is not a separate subjectbut it should be a part of your tradition and we must integrate our customs with it.

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The event this year saw a surprisingly grand turnout. Not only Dadara villagers, but also visitors from neighbouring villages joined us in the celebration. The women folk were given assignment by Purnima Devi Barman. The women folk of Dadara had enthusiastically prepared ‘Naam’ (assamese hymns and folk songs sung on specific subjects), which were sung, especially welcoming the Hargilas to their village. The occasion was covered by an All India Radio correspondent. After the naam, a round of introductions was held, wherein the tree-owners happily shared their experiences of conserving the Hargilas. The tree-owners whose trees were home to the Hargila nests proudly recounted their journey thus far. The interviews seemed to encourage the spirits of the villagers even more. The feeling of ownership and responsibility that they played in the conservation network was felt. After the interviews, a short seminar was held wherein we jointly discussed the importance of the conservation work.
Afterwards games were played; the main focus of these games being environmental awareness.

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It gave me immense pleasure when we could sensitize them through a game called the web of life. The villagers proved eager participants. An hour of laughter ensued. Finally, it came to a close and the group broke for refreshments.
Although the programme was only for a few hours, its memories linger still. My mentor was not off the mark in that ‘tradition goes a long way towards success’, for successful it was! At a time when countries are being thoughtlessly turned barren, when mindless industrialisation is playing a demon to the environment, we have made an army of civilians whose pride and joy are their trees and the winged friends which nestle there.

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“Men, women, children, youths all are engaged in this movement of Aaranyak and we are proud of it”, said Jadab Das, a local resident and a tree owner. We visited many households that day out of curiosity and the same lines of feelings expressed by the tree owners. We also visited Sankardev Sishu Niketan, Dadara, a local school that has partnered with Aaranyak to create a sort of revolution. “We did not know anything on this bird in my locality but Purnima baideo visited us and offered her help to move forward. When we came to know about the importance of the bird we felt privileged to be a part of this mission”, said Head master Paresh Das. “My little four year old girl Diya also joined in this movement and she wishes to be a hargila baideo in the near future,” proudly said Mahesh Das who is very inspired by this movement.

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It will not be false to claim that the Panchamrit indeed proved to be a ‘manna’ for the Greater-Adjutant Storks of Dadara! I wish to be a part of this program whenever I get a chance.

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Protecting Manas for our bright future

Manas National park is one of the important habitats of the endangered Royal Bengal Tiger.In 1973, under the aegis of India’s “project Tiger” Manas was declared as a Tiger Reserve. As per latest estimate only 20-25 Tigers are surviving in this Park and another 15-20 Tigers are estimated to be present in the adjacent Royal Manas National Park of Bhutan…

Manas Brochure

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Shifting from human-wildlife conflict to coexistence: A successful elephant conservation project in Subankhata, Assam

By Dora Godinho

In North-east India, conflicts between people and elephants has become more frequent over the last decades due to a number of reasons, in particular encroachment, human settlements and land conversion for agricultural production and grazing in elephant corridors. All of which occurs in a context where human population increases, the resources shrink and the global climate changes.

Without intervention, these conflicts will increase and consequently, many human lives will be destroyed and elephant population will continue to decrease leading towards eventual extinction. In fact, Asian elephant population has been in permanent decline and these charismatic animals are today threatened with extinction.

Manas Chowki gate at Subankhata

Manas Chowki gate at Subankhata

A few years ago, an innovative elephant conservation project was initiated in Subankhata, in Chirang Ripu Elephant Reserve in the eastern part of Manas National Park. This region had witnessed several tragic incidents which resulted in the loss of human lives and the subsequent retaliatory elephant killing.

The overall goal of the project was the long term protection and the survival of the Asian elephant in the Reserve, through encouragement and strengthening the capacity of local grassroots level NGOs and local communities in the restoration of degraded habitat, mitigation of Human Elephant Conflict (HEC) and support of alternative livelihoods.

The major challenge in this project was undoubtedly the involvement of the villagers in conservation, helping them to understand the direct link between conservation and the development of their communities from which they can highly benefit. But this can only happen through capacity building and immediate attainment of direct benefits. One of these benefits was the installation of a 14 km community based electric fencing which protects the villagers, their properties and crops from elephant intrusion. The installation of the electric fence appears to be very effective in keeping the elephants away. Since then, no major incidents were reported and the villagers are now sleeping safely and peacefully.

 Installation of a 14 km community based electric fencing to protect the villages from elephant intrusion

Installation of a 14 km community based electric fencing to protect the villages from elephant intrusion

In total, more than 200 families diversified their livelihood to sustainable activities such as mushroom farming, beekeeping, piggery, embroidery, handloom and handicrafts women among other socio-economic schemes. All direct benefits from conservation which helped reduce their dependency on forests and make them self-dependent.
In parallel to several educational and awareness events, a 5000 sq. meters community managed nursery was created for raising seedlings with a purpose of reforestation in the nearby degraded forest. A total of 120000 organic saplings were raised in the nursery and planted successfully in 4ha of degraded land by students, villagers and other stakeholders. The survival rate was almost 80% which is a success.

The author with a local SHG member and Namita Brahma of Aaranyak

The author with a local SHG member and Namita Brahma of Aaranyak

This project had a huge impact in reducing HEC and leaves in place a long term model to reduce the levels of human elephant conflict. It also demonstrates how much we can achieve when we work hand in hand, at all levels of the society, towards a better future – one where people and wildlife can thrive and coexist.

Note: this project was funded by the Asian Elephant Conservation Fund of US FISH & WILDLIFE SERVICE

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Assam floods 2016: A synopsis of relief and wildlife conservation work by team Aaranyak

Flood has been a natural disaster for Assam and the intensity of flood in recent years has increased further due to deforestation leading to more silt deposition in rivers and other water bodies. As such floods are Assam’s annual sorrow and this year has been no different. Till the month of July 2016, the state has witnessed an unprecedented amount of rainfall, which has surpassed the previous year’s mark by 60%! The flooding has affected 1.8 million people, and has flooded the Kaziranga National Park, Pobitora Wildlife Sanctaury, as well as most other protected areas, resulting in an alarming death toll for wild life.
Aaranyak’s team and band of volunteers have been working round the clock during this time of crisis to assist wildlife conservation in Assam. Some of our efforts include the following.

Mechanized Boat support to Pobitora WS
A 20 B.H.P mechanized boat measuring 20 meter in length has been handed over to Pobitora WS to fulfill the much needed requirement of the forest department to intensify vigilance, protection and rescue of wild life in the flood affected park. The necessary fuel cost will be supported by Aaranyak. The boat will be in service in the park for a period of 2 months or till flood prevails. The boat was handed over to Mr. Ashok Kr. Das, Range Officer, Pobitora WS by Zakir Islam Bora of Aaranyak on 31st July, 2016.

Mechanized boat of 20 meter length handed over to Pobitora WS

Mechanized boat of 20 meter length handed over to Pobitora WS

Road Vigilance in Kaziranga along with KNP staff and Local VDPs
Aaranyak staff and Student members and volunteers have been assisting the staff of Kaziranga National Park and
Village Defence Parties (VDP) in road vigilance of flood affected KNP ever since 24th July, 2016. The self-motivated team’s vigilance work starts from dusk and continues till late in the night. The team has been in constant alert controlling the chaotic traffic at all the animal corridors of the park, to minimize wild life deaths. Several rescue operations have been performed by the vigilance team which saved the lives of 4 hog deer and 3 snakes at Kaziranga National Park.

Aaranyak vounteers and staff at Kaziranga NP

Aaranyak vounteers and staff at Kaziranga NP

Raincoats and shoes provided to frontline staff of Kaziranga National Park and VDPs
Aaranyak distributed 300 pair of raincoats to the frontline staff of Kaziranga NP to support their work on the field during the monsoon season. Dr. Bibhab Kr. Talukdar, Secretary General & CEO of Aaranyak distributed the raincoats on 6th July, 2016 at Bagori. Aaranyak has also provided 150 pairs of raincoats and shoes to VDP members in Bagori range on 18th June 2016 which wassupported by the David Shepherd Wildlife Foundation, UK.
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Country Boat donated to flood affected Bharalua village
The Bharalua village located near Lakhimpur Town on the bank of river Singora, has been reeling under floods recently. The village came under the attack of floods last year when the Singora river suddenly changed its course and started flowing through the village in a new channel towards the left of the original course. A team from Aaranyak comprising Dr. Partha J Das (Head, ‘Water, Climate and Hazard’ Division), Jintu Kalita, Dipmoni Nath and Sourabh Nath visited the area on June 14 and 15, 2016 to take stock of the flood situation. On 16th June Aaranyak donated a wooden boat to the villagers of Bharalua Gaon in consultation with the District Administration. Dr. Rajiv Dutta Choudhury, the District Project Officer, Disaster Management, Lakhimpur district was present on the occasion. The President of the Village Panchayat received the boat on behalf of the community. The boat was immediately pressed into use and it became instantly popular among the people. It is being used mainly for transporting students from different parts of the area to their schools and back. This activity was done with the support from Mr. Brian Ornald and his wife Ms. Melati Kaye of Indonesia who made a donation to Aaranyak last year for providing relief to flood affected people.
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Aaranyak plans to continue with its flood relief work and appeals to all citizens, organizations, business and industrial houses to extend their co-operation and support in minimizing the aftereffects of flood in Assam. Your support, both financial or in kind, support and voluntary assistance will enable us to reach more and more people, and conduct multiple health camps and provide other forms of support in these affected areas. We also appeal to the healthcare professional fraternity to offer their voluntary assistance in this time of need.

For donations and in- kind support, kindly contact info@aaranyak.org or reach us at +91-361-2230250. For financial donation in Indian Currencies, you may deposit your donation at
Name of Account Holder : Aaranyak
Account Number (Savings Bank): 596002010001046
Name of the Bank: Union Bank of India
Branch Name : Basistha Road Branch, Guwahati
Branch Code: 559601
MICR No: 781026010
IFSC Code: UBIN0559601

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International Tiger Day 2016

ITD 2016_FINAL NGO STATEMENT_JULY 29 2016

International Tiger Day is on 29th July and this year i.e. on 2016, Assam based Aaranyak has joined 45 international NGOs working for conservation, in raising the alarm against increasing tiger poaching and call for ending all tiger farming and tiger trade.
On International Tiger Day, 45 non-governmental organisations from around the globe have released a joint statement urging countries with tiger farms to adopt urgent action to end tiger breeding for commercial purposes and phase out tiger farms. The statement reveals that at present, the global wild tiger population is estimated to be less than 4,000. These last remaining wild tigers are each threatened by trade for nearly all of their body parts – from skins and bones to teeth and claws – traded by criminals for huge profit. These products are consumed largely as exotic luxury products for demonstrating social status, such as tiger skin rugs for luxury home décor or expensive tiger bone wine. Tiger bone is also consumed as traditional medicine.

Click on the link given to read the complete statement.

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Aaranyak Annual Report

Annual Report 2014-15Annual Report 2014-15

Know about all of Aaranyak’s achievements and activities during 2014-15

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National Exhibition on Wildlife Photography held at Digboi.

On the occasion of National Wildlife Week Aaranyak,in collaboration with Assam Science Society, Digboi Branch, Irab-Kirab, Dibrugarh and Photographic Club of Assam, Dibrugarh celebrated a two day photo exhibition at Golden Jubilee Complex, Digboi on Oct 1 and 2, 2012.

The programme was inaugurated by Mr. Apurba Kr. Nath; Chief Manager, Administration, Welfare and CSR, IOCL, Digboi. He was joined by the other guests of Honour Mr. Anuj Dowarah a noted Artist, Writer, Photographer & Social Worker; Mr. Saurav Dowrah, member of International Photographic Council, of India; Mr. Nukul Khound, Co-ordinator of Irab-Kirab related to environment protection; Mr. Sailendra Mohan Das; Eastern Assam Co-ordinator, Aaranyak and Mr. Golap Kalita, Head, Deptt. of Chemistry, Digboi College, Digboi and also President of Digboi Science Society and other eminent guests, students from school and colleges.

Mr. Kamar Uddin Mazumdar, Secretary of Assam Science Society, Digboi Branch anchored the meeting. Mr. Sailendra Mohan Das, Co-ordinator, Eastern Assam delivered the purpose of the meeting and Mr. Golap Kalita, Head, Department of Chemistry, Digboi College, and President of Assam Science Society of Digboi Branch presided over the meeting. Mr. Apurba Kr. Nath was the chief guest of the programme urged the students and the general audience the need hour of wildlife preservation and on habitat conservation. Continue reading

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Spurt in rhino poaching in Kaziranga threatening conservation efforts

Kaziranga rhino poaching

Poachers chop the horn of a rhino while it was still alive. It bled to death 24 hours later. © UB Photos

Guwahati, September 27 2012- Aaranyak, one of the most prominent conservation group in the country has expressed its shock and deepest grievance at the recent incidences of poaching of four rhinos in the flood stricken Kaziranga National Park in just three days time. This is a massive setback to the efforts towards conservation and protection of this unique creature that finds an inherent place in the very heart of Assamese culture.

We strongly feel that the management of the Assam Forest Department has not been up to the task of protecting the rhinos, especially in conditions of flooding of the Park. This, we feel, can be ascribed to a complete lack of coordination between the Forest Department and the Karbi Anglong Autonomous District Council Forest Department, failure of intelligence gathering and appropriate action thereby, a lack of proactive action and commitment on the part of concerned officials of the Department and a complete lack of prior planning to face such natural flooding that occurs on a yearly basis. It is unfortunate that the authorities failed to learn anything from the last flood in June 2012 when as many as three flood displaced rhinos were poached. Absence of rapport and coordination with the fringe communities has also weakened the Forest Department’s monitoring mechanism over the peripheral areas of the Park.

We strongly demand that the State Forest Department and Kaziranga National Park Authority ensures proper coordination with the KAADC Forest Department to ensure safety to the straying rhino in the foothills. We also demand that perpetrators of the crime be pursued and brought to the justice and an accountability should be introduced within the authority which is responsible for protection of our natural heritage. At the same time, Aaranyak also demands that the State Forest Department and Ministry of Environment and Forest, GOI undertake serious efforts to prevent any such incidents in future.

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Kaziranga floods: an update and review of the impact on animals.

swamp deer killed by speeding vehicle in kaziranga

A road-kill swamp deer on NH 37, Kanchanjuri, Kaziranga courtesy Dr. Firoz Ahmed

As flood is a normal phenomenon in the Kaziranga and is an important part of the ecosystem processes, I personally believe that this is a gift of the nature to the park and not a curse as believed by layman. The loss of animals in the park is only human perspective and cannot be from the perspective of the nature/ecosystems.

Why is flood essential to Kaziranga?

The flood may kill some animals, most of which are infants, juveniles, old and diseased; this also enriches the ecosystems in return, immensely. The grassland and the wetlands of the park is naturally maintained by flood and its drainage system and the flood is the only single driving force behind the energy required to carry out such an ecosystem management service.

So, in a nutshell, the loss from flood is meager compared to the benefit offered by the annual flood. Further, the flood is not killer every year and there is a lot of highland inside the park that provides shelter to animals during high flood like this.  Continue reading

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Camera traps, tigers and Namdapha

Tiger Namdapha

Namdapha National Park is the largest national park in India in terms of area and is a biodiversity hotspot. It is located in eastern Arunachal Pradesh bordering Myanmar.

For a long time, Namdapha was considered to be an empty tiger reserve because of extensive poaching and encroachment in the core areas of the park. But last year, DNA analysis of a scat sample at our wildlife genetics lab proved that tigers were on the comeback.

Accordingly, to get an idea of just how many tigers there are in Namdapha now, a decision was taken to take a census using camera traps. But because the park is so big and the tiger population is small to non existent, previous attempts to capture tigers in camera traps in 1996 and 2006 didn’t yield anything conclusive. Continue reading

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