The Telegraph
Since 1st March, 1999
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Rice for work in Manas forests

Uttarkuchi (Baksa), May 7: Rice is sowing the seeds of a successful conservation effort in the Manas Tiger Reserve.

The members of Pratiddhani, an NGO working for forest and wildlife conservation inside the Subankhata reserve forest, located on the fringe of Manas National Park, is involving the villagers in conservation efforts, and aiding them by distributing rice in return.

Moreover, the NGO comprises former Bodo Liberation Tiger militants, who guard the forest from poachers and prevent anti-conservation activities.

“It is very important to conserve the reserve forest, as it includes buffer areas of the Manas Tiger Project. We have tried several means to spread the message of the importance of conserving forest and wildlife among the neighbouring villagers. However, of late we have hit upon the idea of distributing rice among the poor villagers who live on the fringe areas of the reserve forest and it is an instant hit,” Bijay Choudhury, who heads the NGO, said on Monday.

The NGO also runs the Manas Sousi Khongkhor Eco Tourism Camp inside the Subankhata reserve forest.

Besides tigers, the Subankhata reserve forest is also home to leopards, four varieties of deer, wild dogs, cap langurs, beer, pangolin, rare fishes, birds like hornbill, king cobra and python.

“The involvement of the villagers is a must for any successful forest and wildlife conservation endeavour. The economic condition of the neighbouring villagers is very poor and most of them are BPL families. So when we decided to distribute rice, which is the common food for the Bodo and Adivasi people, and saw positive results immediately,” said Choudhury.

The villagers have helped in the rescue of two civet cats, one python, two bison and several species in past three months.

“The two civet cats were to be sold in the market in Subankhata by some persons. Two Adivasi youths in the nearby village saw them and informed us immediately, resulting in their rescue. We are going to release them in the forest very soon,” said Choudhury.

“Earlier, our members used to face problems as hunting was a tradition with the Adivasi people. But there has also been a considerable drop in the traditional hunting by the Adivasis who live on the fringe areas of the Subankhata reserve forest,” said Himangshu Ramsiary, a member of the NGO.

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