Honouring lesser-known heroes from lesser-known sanctuaries
Mumbai: 28th July: The Wildlife Warrior Awards, an initiative undertaken by Hem Chand Mahindra Wildlife Foundation (HCMWF) and Saevus, were launched in 2013 with the objective of recognizing and honouring the unsung green soldiers from across the country – those Forest Department personnel who often need to risk their lives in order to save the forest and its inhabitants. This year, the award ceremony was held at BNHS Hornbill House on July 27 at 6.00 pm. As part of the Wildlife Warrior Jury Awards 2015 for Neglected Sanctuaries, Mr. Ashok Mahindra – Founder, HCMWF, in association with Saevus Wildlife India, also handed Rs. 50,000 to the kin of the Late Forest Guard, Rampal Saini, who was allegedly mauled to death by a tiger, in Ranthambore National Park, Rajasthan.
The Wildlife Warrior Awards this year recognised and honoured the deeds of forest officials and staff from some of the often ignored sanctuaries in India. Many of the lesser-known sanctuaries are home to innumerable endemic species that are living precariously on the edge. Few of the chosen protected areas for the Awards this year include Dibru Saikhowa National Park in Assam, Kutch Bustard Sanctuary in Gujarat and Cotigaon Wildlife Sanctuary in Goa.
Issues such as lack of proper orientation and funds coupled with the dangerous working conditions prevalent in these areas, imply that the forest guards and officials need to strive against unimaginable odds to do their job and maintain the sanctuaries. “India has the Highest Ranger Mortality in the World, according to IRF (International Ranger Federation), a non-profit organization,” said Mr. Mahindra.
These awards are, thus, a medium for saluting these green heroes and appreciating the work they do. In the first year, winners were announced from five of the most renowned Protected Areas in the country, viz. Corbett, Gir, Kaziranga, Nagarahole and Ranthambore.
Sree Nandy, CEO & Editor-in-Chief, Saevus Wildlife India, said, “Our (Saevus) motto is ‘conservation through appreciation’ and we have always looked to support and initiate events that advocate the same. The Wildlife Warrior Awards is the perfect platform through which the true heroes of the forests can be saluted and bring to light the difficulties faced by them out into the open for all to recognise and acknowledge.”
Dr Asad Rahmani, Director BNHS-India, said, “I am extremely happy that HCMWF and Saevus have come forward to recognise the services of unsung heroes who are working in the neglected sanctuaries and the neglected eco-systems of India. I hope this trend will spread and agencies and organisations who give green awards will recognise the services of people working in non-tiger areas and lesser-known sanctuaries.”
The winners were selected from the designated 10 lesser-known sanctuaries in India and each of them received a cash prize of Rs. 50,000 each.
- Biraj Barman, Deputy Ranger – Dibru-Saikhowa National Park, Assam
- Babu Rathod, Forest Guard – Brahmagiri Wildlife Sanctuary, Karnataka
- Pan Singh Gaunia, Beat Guard – Nandhaur Wildlife Sanctuary, Uttarakhand
- Mangal Kachhap, Assistant Conservator of Forests – Dalma Wildlife Sanctuary, Jharkhand
- Kaleshwar Bhagat, Forest Guard – Dalma Wildlife Sanctuary, Jharkhand
- Joint award to:Atulkumar Bhanushankar Dave, Range Forest Officer – Kutch Bustard Sanctuary, Gujarat & Sumara Isha Hasan, Watchman – Kutch Bustard Sanctuary, Gujarat
Saevus – a Latin word that means Untamed or Wild – is India’s premier wildlife magazine founded in 2012. The monthly magazine covers stories on wildlife, natural history, wildlife photography and conservation, not just from the Indian subcontinent, but from around the globe. With ‘conservation through appreciation’ being the motto, Saevus’ main aim is to bring wildlife right to the doorsteps of each and every house across the country. Through the magazine as its main medium, Saevus has also initiated several programmes, such as the Natural Capital Olympiad, Wildlife Warriors, Natural Capital Awards and many more, all aimed at communicating the splendour of Indian wildlife and spreading the message of conservation. Its aim is to highlight the threatened state of our Mother Nature and its endangered species.
The Hem Chand Mahindra Wildlife Foundation is a memorial foundation set up by former Treasurer and Vice-President of WWF (World Wide Fund for Nature), Ashok Mahindra in memory of his father. The foundation looks to uphold and work for the protection of our fragile ecosystem as well as for the conservation of wildlife through various activities held in the country, including partnering with Saevus for the Wildlife Warriors Awards. At a recent function in BNHS, Mr. Ashok Mahindra had released his coffee table book, “Capturing Wildlife Moments in India”, which highlights over 30 national parks, sanctuaries and other locations visited by him.
BNHS, a pan-India wildlife research organization, has been promoting the cause of nature conservation for the past 132 years, since 1833. BNHS works with the mission of conservation of Nature, primarily biological diversity through action based on research, education and public awareness. BNHS has a vibrant presence at dozens of places across India covering diverse habitats such as forests, wetlands, mountains, deserts and marine areas.