Achievers Corner – Minaram Gogoi
Minaram Gogoi of Assam’s Nameri National Park wins
Zeiss Wildlife Conservation Award
Minaram Gogoi knows a thing or two about flying, although he had never been on a plane until last month. When the 35-year-old boarded a flight from Guwahati to Delhi to receive the Zeiss Wildlife Conservation Award in March, it turned out to be an experience he wouldn’t forget soon.
Employed as a forest guard at Assam’s Nameri National Park, Gogoi is an uncrowned expert on the birds of eastern India. However, his brief acceptance speech was in stark contrast to the carefully curated video presentations that came before him. He simply thanked the organisers for the recognition, and then requested that his job be made regular.
“I have worked in Nameri for almost 17 years, but my job has not been made regular till today,” he said after receiving the award. “It is very difficult for us.”
Gogoi is employed in the capacity of a daily wage labourerat the national park, earning Rs 7,000 a month. If
appointed as a regular employee, his salary will rise to Rs 15,000 – going a long way in providing for his wife and seven-year-old son.
According to an Assam government advertisement from December 2016, forest guards get anywhere between Rs 5,200 and Rs 20,200 as monthly pay. However, to be formally inducted as a forest guard, the minimum qualification required of a candidate is a degree in higher secondary education. According to Gogoi’s supervisors, this is the very factor preventing him from landing a regular job with the forest dept.
Data acquired from the environment and forest ministry shows that India relies heavily on daily wage labourers
like Gogoi to safeguard its forests and wildlife sanctuaries.In some tiger reserves, they constitute over 50% of the labour force.
Born in a village near Kaziranga National Park, protecting wildlife has been a part of Gogoi’s life from the start.
Being a Class 3 dropout, he does not know how to read and write properly. However, that hasn’t prevented him from “mastering” the language of the birds.Over the years, Gogoi has taught himself to identifya
vians by travelling with avid bird watchers who frequent the park. “There are 374 bird species in Nameri, and I can identify 300 of them,” he said with evident pride.
During the off-season, Gogoi assists in patrolling and anti-poaching activities. His day, which starts at 6 in the morning, usually involves moving through the park on foot, elephant or boat.
In recent months, conservation efforts in the region have come under scrutiny due to a BBC documentary
alleging that forest guards at the Kaziranga National Park are given “shoot-at-sight” powers. Calling for a broader understanding of the human-wildlife conflict, critics have argued that forest guards – foot soldiers in the war against poaching – are mostly underpaid and overworked.
People from various sections of the wildlife conservation space came together at the Zeiss Awards. Among the other awardees recognised this year were Delhi – based bird watcher Nikhil Devasar, photojournalist Kalyan Varma, bird veterinarian Rina Dev, Keoladeo National Park deputy conservator Bijo Joy and lifetime conservationist Bholu Abrar Khan.
The award, instituted by leading optics manufacturer Zeiss, is now in its 17th year. Conservationists from all walks of life had flocked in Delhi for the evening.Gogoi left the capital the day after, on an early morning flight. He had an award in his kitty, but sadly, not the promise of a regular job.
Source: Hindustan Times
Birds at Nameri
Nameri National Park is a national park in the foothills of the eastern Himalayas in the Sonitpur District of Assam, India, about 35 km from Tezpur. Nameri is about 9 km from Chariduar, the nearest village. Nameri shares its northern boundary with the Pakhui Wildlife Sanctuary of Arunachal Pradesh. Together they constitute an area of over 1000 km2 of which Nameri has a total area of 200 km2.
Etymology: The park was declared a reserve forest on 17 October 1978. It was set up as a Nameri Sanctuary on 18 September 1985 with an area of137 km2 as a part of Naduar Forest Reserve. Until then the Nameri National Park was heavily used for logging. Another 75 km2 was added on 15 November 1998 when it was officially established as a National Park. The Jia Bhoroli river of Assam was famous since the time of British for the golden mahseer angling.
Flora: The vegetation type of nameri is of semi-evergreen, moist deciduous forests with cane and bamboo brakes and narrow strips of open grassland along rivers. The forests are rich in epiphytes, lianas, and creepers and clump-forming bamboo. This forest has over 600 species. Some notable species are Gmelina arborea, Michelia champaca, Amari, Chukrasia tabularis, Ajar, Urium poma, Bhelou, Agaru, Rudraksha, Bonjolokia, Hatipolia akhakan, hollock, Nahor. It is home for orchids like Dendrobium, Cymbidium and Cypripedioideae.
Fauna: This is excellent elephant country and was considered to be an elephant reserve. It is an ideal habitat for a host of other animals including the tiger, leopard, sambar, dhole (the Asiatic wild dog), pygmy hog, Indian wild bison, clouded leopard, leopard cat, muntjac, gaur, wild boar, sloth bear, Himalayan black bear, capped langur and Indian giant squirrel. Nameri is a birdwatcher’s paradise with over 300 species. The white winged wood duck, great pied hornbill, wreathed hornbill, rufous necked hornbill, black stork, ibisbill, blue-bearded bee-eaters, babblers, plovers and many other birds make Nameri their home.
Tourism attractions: Angling at Nameri: This park is full of rivers. Fishing is the famous activity which is held by forest department. The golden mahseer fish is famous in these region where they grown to 3-9 feet. They are known as “tigers of the Himalayan rivers”. Angling has been suspended by local park authority under the Wildlife Protection Act as this habitat is now a Save the Tiger Project site. Nameri River Rafting is held at southeast of the park on river Jia Bharali. The rafting is up to 13 km around 3 hours. Nameri Wildlife Trekking is an amazing experience in these park. An armed forest department worker guides the trekking.