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Biswajit Mohanty

Biswajit Mohanty

Biswajit Mohanty has been working to defend Orissa’s wildlife for almost a decade. As coordinator of Operation Kachhapa, he has been involved with the effort to protect olive ridley sea turtles from death at the hands of trawlers.
Photo Credit:Shekhar Dattatri.

Month Year: October 2001

Wildlife Service Award

Honorary Wildlife Warden, Dhenkanal.

A wildlife activist who networks with groups across the country, Mohanty’s name almost invariably crops up when discussions revolve around environmental issues concerning Orissa. He has filed several cases in the Orissa High Court, his most famous victory being one that he argued personally, which led to an order being passed in December 2000 staying the issuance of timber permits in Orissa – for timber obtained from private lands whose title deeds were acquired after the Forest (Conservation) Act, 1980 came into force.

Associates refer to him as Orissa’s ‘one-man army’. A trained Chartered Accountant, Mohanty took to conservation full-time when he stumbled upon the trade in tiger and leopard skins in Orissa. Working with the Orissa Forest Department, he managed to bust that particular gang. He became the first Secretary of the Wildlife Society of Orissa in 1994. Two years later, investigative work done by him resulted in the arrest of yet another gang near Bhubaneshwar from whom 21 leopard skins were seized. He subsequently set up a database on wildlife crimes and intelligence that is relied upon by police and wildlife officials.

Mohanty also works very closely with those seeking to protect the olive Ridley sea turtles along Orissa’s coast, where more than 20,000 sea turtles lose their lives to trawlers’ nets each year. As coordinator of Operation Kachhapa, a Wildlife Protection Society of India (WPSI) initiative, he has helped provide the Forest Department with much-needed boats and man-power. Respectful of tribal societies, he has nevertheless been working with social activists to put a stop to the annual tribal hunt called Akhand Shikhar, which has taken a terrible toll on wildlife in the Simlipal Tiger Reserve. Threats from the timber and sal leaf mafia in the state, have merely spurred him on to greater heights and it is for this ‘gift of the fight’ that he is being honoured and recognised.

First published in: Sanctuary Asia, Vol XXI No. 5, October 2001.

 
 
 

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