Jorhat, Oct. 29: Schoolchildren from 13 Assam districts were taken on a day’s tour today to Gibbon wildlife sanctuary at Mariani to sensitise them about the need to conserve nature and wildlife.
The students, who have been brought to Jorhat for a three-day educational tour under the Gyan Jyoti scheme, have been split up into groups and two of the groups are being taken inside the sanctuary — the only protected area in the country named after the hoolock gibbon, the only ape found in India.
The sanctuary, spread over an area of 20.98 square km, has the lone distinction of being home to seven species of primates (mostly endangered).
Tomorrow, on the concluding day, another batch of students will be taken inside.
Jorhat inspector of schools Kamal Jyoti Gogoi told The Telegraph that Class VIII to X students from rural areas are taken to Guwahati and Jorhat every year under the Gyan Jyoti scheme by dividing the districts in two groups.
The students are given the option to choose between historical places, heritage sites, monuments, protected forests, renowned scientific research institutes and reputed educational institutions located in and around the two urban centres.
Gogoi said this time, over 1,000 students from 13 districts were participating in the camp that was inaugurated by chief minister Tarun Gogoi yesterday. While some students had opted for Majuli to have a glimpse of the Vaishanvite culture preached and practised in the xatras (monastries) on the island, some were visiting the historical monuments in adjoining Sivasagar district and some were visiting the various scientific research and education institutes here, he added.
He said about half the students had opted to visit the sanctuary and added that around 300 students visited the sanctuary today while another 200 would be visiting tomorrow. “The aim behind arranging the visit to the sanctuary was to provide first-hand knowledge about the forest to the students and to imbibe in them respect for nature and wildlife.”
The forest department has prepared a module for the awareness programme.
Jorhat divisional forest officer N.K. Malakar said the students went inside the forest in different groups on foot with sanctuary staff acting as guides. They were told about the kind of wildlife found inside the sanctuary. “The students were shown the areas where the animals and birds reside.”
The tour started at 8.30am and ended around 3.30pm.
Malakar said the sanctuary was home to elephants, leopards, jungle cats, civet cats, mongoose, Chinese pangolins, Indian foxes, barking deer, sambar deer and Malayan giant squirrels apart from gibbons.
The sanctuary’s range officer, Dibakar Medhi, said there were 291 species of birds, including the white-winged duck, the official bird of Assam.
He said the students were also given PowerPoint presentations inside makeshift tents set up for the purpose. “A briefing by an expert of the Gibbon Conservation Centre located inside the park is also part of the tour.”