Month Year: December 2006
Young Naturalist Awards
If this is the face of tomorrow, India has a great green future. He is one of the principal members of a flying squad of Bishnois who are prepared to chase, capture and restrain anyone who dares to poach animals in the vicinity of their villages in Rajasthan. Bajrang belongs to a remote tribal community that has contributed more to wildlife protection than almost any other urban or rural society in India.
The Bishnois of Rajasthan are best known for their culture of animal reverence and protection. Young Bajrang Bishnoi follows in the footsteps of his elders for whom the teachings of Jambaji, or Jambeshwar Bhagavan guide their every living moment. Disillusioned by riots between Muslims and Hindus, Jambaji preached a religion of peace between the two communities, based on 29 principles (bish – twenty, noi – nine), which include love for all living creatures and a vegetarian diet. Bajrang Bishnoi practices his religion actively. He protects desert animals as his own family members. His first field combat for wildlife took place in August 2002, when two poachers killed 10 chinkaras from the Samrathal Dhora – a sacred forest of the Bishnois.
Bajrang insisted on accompanying some of the older Bishnois to fight off the poachers. The incident charted his course for life as a protector of wildlife. His involvement does not stop at anti-poaching operations. On a daily basis, he loves and cares for wild creatures and often rescues and treats injured animals at the Bishnoi’s gaushala (cow shelter). He studied in the Sanskrit Gurukul of the Bishnois, and is keen to learn all he can about the natural world from modern teachers as well. This young man epitomises the result of imparting the right values to children. He is tomorrow’s face for wildlife protection.
First published in: Sanctuary Asia, Vol XXVI No. 6, December 2006.