The Telegraph
Monday , January 6 , 2014
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Salvo at govt’s anti-poaching efforts
Nature activists slam safaris

Pawel and Gilad Ekerman take a boat ride at Chandubi lake. Picture by Kishore Talukdar

Borjhar, Jan. 5: Two foreign nationals brought stark reality on rhino protection to the fore at Chandubi Festival.

“It is dangerous to use the sidewalks of Guwahati as there are potholes everywhere. If a government cannot take care of its people, how can it protect the flora and fauna of the state?” asked Gilad Ekerman, 24, a nature activist from Israel, referring to the increasing number of rhino deaths in Assam.

Forty-one rhinos were killed in the state last year.

Ekerman was accompanied by his friend and fellow activist — Pawel, 26, from Poland — to the festival that concluded today.

Spellbound by the serene, secluded and solitary environment of the Chandubi lake, the activists said the main attraction of Assam is the Kaziranga National Park. The duo had visited the park in December.

“It (rhino poaching) is a horrible crime and failure to put an end to it is not only a matter of grave concern but substantiates the fact that the government has not been able to rise to the occasion to protect this prized possession of the planet,” echoed Pawel.

The elephant safari at the park also drew flak from the two.

“Elephants should not be used for safaris. Putting the gentle giants into service for entertainment is not right. This is my view although I do not want to impose my opinion on anyone,” Gilad told this correspondent today.

According to them, not need but insatiable human greed is taking a toll on nature.

“It is important to leave nature as it is. At the same time I would appeal to picnickers for an eco-friendly celebration and to keep the flora and fauna undisturbed,” the Israeli said.

On a humble mission to create mass awareness among the people, the foreign nationals were fascinated by the artistic application of bamboo to make shelters, gates and a material to serve food at the winter festival.

“Bamboo as a construction material is an ideal substitute for wood, and if used properly, the pressure on the forest landscape will be reduced,” Pawel said.

At the five-day winter festival, Gilad and Pawel also tasted the ethnic food items like ketli pith, sunga pitha and others.

On a six-month visa, the duo are also here to participate in the Dancing Rain Creative Festival, scheduled to be held on January 18 and 19 at Kazalichaki village near Pobitora wildlife sanctuary.

Tourists Tamara Artajeva, 25, from Lithuania and Craig Winzelberg, 51, from the US, will also accompany them to the festival.

The Dancing Rain Creative Festival is being organised by Alak Jyoti Pathak, a sculptor. Pathak and his group work for the preservation of nature, art and culture under the banner of Paribartan, an NGO.