As the winter descends on Brahmaputra Valley in Assam, animals including rhinos from the sprawling Kaziranga National Park (KNP) tend to stray onto numerous river isles that dotted the course of the mighty river. In the process, these animals stand vulnerable to poaching and other threats.
The people living in these river isles or sandbar isles (also called chaporis in local parlance) can play a major role in providing protection to these stray animals from the KNP if they are made aware of the preciousness of the wildlife.
Biodiversity conservation group, Aaranyak in collaboration with Assam Forest Department and with support from David Shepherd Wildlife Foundation (DSWF), has engaged a team of conservation workers and volunteers to organise conservation awareness campaign among these river isles dwellers in the interest of protection of stray animals from the KNP.
The team led by Arif Hussain of Aaranyak and having honorary wildlife warden of the KNP, Uttam Saikia, has been provided with a motor boat and four armed guards by Assam Forest Department.
They set sail on December 25 to hold as many awareness camps as possible in these river isles till December 29. They are using audio-visual medium to make presentation before the participating villagers from all age groups in order to induce them to chip in with their mite towards protection of these animals.
The forest department doesn’t have sufficient manpower to protest the animals that stray out of the National Park’s protection zone. So, sans the cooperation of these people, it won’t be possible to keep a vigil on these precious animals that venture out of the park.
It is tough to reach out to those secluded river isles especially when the river channel dries up in the winter making it difficult to boat along. The team has to walk miles to reach those hamlets carrying the generator set on a bi-cycle.
So far, the team has organised three awareness camps at Gitung and Misamora river isles where villagers have been sensitised about the importance of various animals species and the role they are expected to play to protect them when these animals stray onto their isles.
“This has been a first-time experience of villagers attending such awareness camps on conservation of animal species. We also hold an attractive audio-visual quiz session among villagers after the presentation to create awareness on conservation. Persons from all ages have attended these programmes and their response has been outstanding,” an Aaranyak official from the team informed.
The team of Aaranyak is also trying to set up contacts among the river isles dwellers for future networking.