Source: A&W Magazine

Indian Conservationists win Green Oscar

Adventure & Wildlife team congratulates The Whitley Award Winners – Sanjay Gubbi & Purnima Barman for their outsanding contribution in their conservation efforts.

Two Indian activists on Wednesday won the Annual Whitley Awards, dubbed as the ‘Green Oscars’, for their works in the field of animal and bird conservation in India.

Sanjay Gubbi of Karnataka and Purnima Barman of Assam were among six global winners of the award shortlisted from 166 entries. Each of the winners receives 35,000 pounds (USD 45,374) prize money in project funding over one year.

Sanjay Gubbi

Famed wildlife activist Sanjay Gubbi won the award for his work to protect Karnataka’s tiger corridors. Gubbi had quit his job as an electrical engineer to work with nature and wildlife.

In 2012, working closely with the Karnataka government, he secured the largest expansion of protected areas for the conservation of tigers in his state.“Karnataka is home to the highest number of Bengal tigers in India and in 2015 the figure stood between 10 and 15. Our hope is to take it up to 100 over the next few years but this can only be done through working with the community,” he said.

With his award money, Sanjay Gubbi hopes to reduce deforestation in two important wildlife sanctuaries which connect several protected areas and act as corridors for tigers, allowing them to move between territories.

The community focus will be around the provision of fuel- efficient stoves to reduce the reliance on firewood collection from the habitat of the tigers and thus, save many lives in the process. “The awards are about recognising progress, winning those small battles which cumulatively equate to change at the national-level. In addition to the financial benefit of winning the award, winners receive professional communications training to turn scientists into ambassadors,” said Edward Whitley, founder of the Whitley Fund for Nature, which set up awards 24 years ago.

Sanjay Gubbi holds a Master’s Degree in Conservation Biology from University of Kent, UK where he received the Maurice Swingland Award for the best postgraduate student of the year. His dissertation from the M.Sc won two major international awards. He is the recipient of Carl Zeiss Wildlife Conservation Award for 2011.

He works on protection of tigers and other wildlife in the Western Ghats of Karnataka which has resulted in several successes in the state including closure of night traffic of highways in Bandipur and Nagarahole National Parks, halting of the mine at Kudremukh, expansion of Anshi-Dandeli, Bandipur Tiger Reserves and more recently several other protected areas. He was instrumental in the establishment of a new wildlife sanctuary at Rangayyanadurga for the four-horned antelope in Davanagere district. Gubbi also works towards the institution of new social security and welfare measures for forest watchers and guards serving in Karnataka’s protected areas.

His other strength includes his work with a wide cross-section of people including policy makers, media and social leaders on the need for wildlife conservation. He has published scientific papers on conservation policies in leading international journals. He has extensively authored about conservation in the popular print media, and is especially keen on fostering good writing about

wildlife in local languages. Apart from the several popular articles in English and Kannada, he has authored Vanyajeevigala jaadu hididu (On the Wildlife Trail), a book in Kannada, and co-edited another one, Vanyajeevigala ramyaloka (The Delightful World of Wildlife).

Recognising his efforts the Karnataka State Government has appointed him as the Member of the State Wildlife Advisory Board chaired by the Chief Minister, State Tiger Conservation Steering Committee, Governing Council of Tiger Foundations of Karnataka and several other important

committees. He is one of the few in the country with a scientific background and a strong understanding of the socio-economic and political aspects of wildlife conservation.

One of his important contributions includes motivating and guiding younger generation to work and contribute towards wildlife conservation.

Purnima Barman

37-year-old Barman won this award for creating an all-female network to save the Greater Adjutant stork, known in India as Hargila, and its wetland habitat in Assam.

The Hargila storks are large scavenger birds with a global population of just 1,200, 75 per cent of which are found in Assam.

According to the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN), their total population is estimated to be between 1,200 and 1,800 and around 800 birds are found in Assam and at least 156 birds in Bihar.

Through her NGO Aaranyak, Barman has mobilised her all- female local network towards sustainable livelihoods through weaving traditional Assamese scarves and saris that are then sold to raise funds for the conservation project.

“This is a life-changing event for my team. It is a dream of every conservationist to win this award and the prize money will go a long way in expanding our Hargila Army network,” said Barman, who got attracted to the project while she worked on her PhD in Kamrup district of Assam.

“With this award money, we plan to scale up this work, encouraging households in the region to take pride in the species and protect the birds and their nesting trees,” she said

HARGILA STORK – That’s one ugly bird!

Quite clearly the first impression of the Greater Adjutant Stork, a scavenging bird stands nearly 5 feet tall on the ground. From a distance, the bird seems nothing more than an ugly thing. Thankfully, Purnima Devi Barman, an environmentalist associated with the NGO Aranyak, decided to observe closely.

Recently awarded the title of ‘Green Guru of the Eastern Himalayas’ at a national event this month, Purnima is the force behind Assam’s Hargila Army – an army of 70 women headed by Barman.

During a visit to the Dadara village of Kamrup district in Assam, Barman took an interest in the birds and has been working with the villagers to make the region safe for the species again.

“The scenario was very pathetic for the birds. The villagers did not want to see the birds in their area. They would think that as a carnivorous bird, it would bring carcass and other rotten stuff. Thus they would cut the trees where these birds used to build nests. But after pro-longed efforts, thankfully, now they have realised the importance of it,” Barman said.

The species has been named on the IUCN Red List of Threatened Species.

Only two known nesting sites of the species are in India. Except Assam, the only other home to the Greater Adjutant Stork is in Bihar. The greatest threat to their nesting sites in superstitions that people have along with rapid deforestation leading to loss of habitat.

The villagers initially reacted angrily when I suggested their conservation to them.  I then decided to take the women folk into confidence. I gathered the village women and shared my views with them. I also conducted several games and competitions like cooking among the girls and women to win their confidence. I wanted to make them feel that these birds are their own,” Barman shares.

Her efforts bore fruit and soon, the women united to provide a safe home for the birds.

“In 2006-07, we found that there were only 15 nests but in 2015, when we did a survey, we found 171 nests. This itself tells the dedication of the villagers and I’m extremely happy with the result,” she says. Along with her army, she has been able to bring up the numbers of the Hargila to safety.

Through 2016, Purnima Devi Barman has been invited to receive several state and national levels awards for championing the cause of the Greater Adjutant Stork. Apart from the Green Guru Award of the Eastern Himalayas that she received this month, she was also honoured by the RBS.

“It’s indeed been an honour for me to be here and receive the award. I think it will motivate the people who are working for the cause of environment. I’m grateful to the RBS foundation and jury members for choosing me for the recognition,” Barman said after receiving her award under ‘Save the Species’ category in New Delhi.

Courtesy : SUSMITA MUKHERJEE , indiatimes

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