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Through The Lens Of Protectors

Paro Natung, anti-poaching staff at the Pakke Tiger Reserve, are flag-bearers of a remarkable initiative to empower those living in and around our forests to tell their stories. Photo: Chandan Patro.

Anti-poaching staff moonlighting as wildlife filmmakers? That’s exactly what Chandan Patro and Paro Natung, anti-poaching staff at the Pakke Tiger Reserve, have set off to achieve. Despite never having used a computer, the duo began to edit short clips of their footage within a couple of months of joining Green Hub, a youth and community-based video documentation centre in Tezpur. Imagine our surprise when along with the DFO we walked into the edit room where Patro and Natung were sitting behind a big, white Mac screen editing footage using Final Cut Pro.

Chandan Patro, anti-poaching staff at the Pakke Tiger Reserve, are flag-bearers of a remarkable initiative to empower those living in and around our forests to tell their stories. Photo: Paro Natung.

The story of their foray into film-making is closely tied to their lives growing up around Pakke. Chandan’s father was a driver with the Forest Department at the Eaglenest Wildlife Sanctuary for many decades. During his school holidays, Chandan often visited anti-poaching camps with his father, which sparked his interest in the forest and wildlife. Unlike Chandan, Paro had a more adversarial introduction to wildlife. Growing up in Seijosa village just outside the Pakke Tiger Reserve, he remembers how he often stayed up to guard his crop fields against elephants. Much later, he participated in a camera-trapping exercise with the Forest Department, which led to his interest in wildlife. Today, both patrol and protect Pakke, which is one of the largest tracts of forests in the eastern Himalaya. Both were raised by their mothers, with Chandan losing his father when he was in class nine. Being daily-wage forest watchers, their lives are not easy. Fund crunches mean that job uncertainty is a given. Money has to be raised to even provision anti-poaching camps with rations for daily-wage staff, who do not get the benefits that regular forest guards do. The possibility of being trained as filmmakers therefore was a rare, golden opportunity for them. Rita Banerji, and her talented team run Green Hub, a one-of-its-kind school for video documentation based in Tezpur. The previous year, I had the chance to work on nature-education camps with Anthony Tallo, a Green Hub fellow...

 
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