Green Guard Nature Organization
The Assam-based Green Guards Nature Organization works with fringe forest communities to mitigate conflict with wild animals, promote reforestation and engage people in conservation.
Photo Courtesy: Rituraj Phukan.
This group of conservationists stay the course!
That is not something that can be said for all Non-governmental Organisations (NGOs), which are sometimes justifiably criticised for initiating projects and not seeing them through. Working in the northeastern state of Assam in India, the Green Guard Nature Organization has truly transformed some of the areas in which they operate.
Rituraj Phukan, Secretary General, Green Guard Nature Organization, says, “We are trying to make people proud of their heritage, to show that the fantastic biodiversity of their region belongs to local communities, and that sensible solutions to wildlife conflict must be found. Our involvement goes way beyond merely implementing projects.”
Founded in 1994, Green Guard Nature Organistion works towards wildlife rescue and rehabilitation, environment conservation, education, awareness and upliftment of communities living in and around biodiverse forests.
They were the first to organise systematic biodiversity studies of the Laokhowa Wildlife Sanctuary, the Burhachapori Wildlife Sanctuary, the forests along the Nagaon-Karbi Anglong border and of the avifauna of Nagaon and Morigaon districts. A migratory bird census and monitoring programme launched in 1995, which has been continued every year since, enabled them to identify eight wetlands of great conservation potential outside the Protected Areas of Nagaon and Morigaon. These wetlands are now regularly monitored and the data collected is sent to the International Wetland Research Bureau and the Asian Wetland Research Bureau.
Green Guard members participated in a wetland and waterfowl survey conducted by the Salim Ali Centre for Ornithology (SACON) and the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) at Nagaon and Morigaon and discovered 20 wetlands in 2001 including a 37 sq. km. moist grassland, now known as the Deobali Jalah. SACON has since identified this area as a priority site for conservation under their Wetland Area Conservation Programme. It has also been listed as an Important Bird Area by the International Bird Conservation Network and Bombay Natural History Society.
Green Guard has also monitored hoolock gibbons, elephants, tigers, and in 2001, their members documented over 20,000 Amur Falcons in Morigaon, one of the earliest records of the large-scale migration of the falcons to the region.
A collaborative project between Green Guard Nature Organization and Aaranyak, supported by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, to protect the Greater Adjutant Stork population in Assam (see page 52) is a remarkable conservation story in itself. Within seven years, 38 stork chicks and juveniles and one adult were rescued, of which 31 were reared successfully and released back into the wild.
Green Guard’s Human-Elephant Conflict (HEC) mitigation programme, begun in 2005, has helped to reduce human and elephant casualties in the Nagaon-Karbi Anglong area and the Burhapahar hill range. Their novel methods encouraged other government agencies and NGOs in India and overseas to invite them to share their experience so their model could be replicated. In 2013, a community elephant fodder plantation programme was initiated in human-wildlife conflict areas where bhim kol, a giant species of banana relished by elephants, jackfruit trees and seeds were planted in areas deforested by jhum or shifting cultivation in the Karbi foothills.
Green Guard currently partners with Sanctuary’s Kids for Tigers programme in Assam, thus helping to reach direct conservation messages to young school children in urban and rural areas. Audio-visual presentations, teachers’ workshops, and nature trails are held by their naturalists in over 50 schools.
Another issue that engages Green Guard activists is the illegal wildlife trade in Nagaon and neighbouring districts, where several rescues have been undertaken. On this front, they rely on Binod ‘Dulu’ Bora, recipient of a Sanctuary Wildlife Service Award 2014. All this work is undertaken in coordination with the Forest Department of Assam, and one of the collateral benefits of this association is the improved relationship between people and parks.
For more information contact: Rituraj Phukan
Tel.: +91 94350 60642
Author: Anirudh Nair, First appeared in: Sanctuary Asia, Vol. XXXIV No. 6, December 2014.