03/07/2015 3:32 PM IST | Updated 15/07/2016 8:25 AM IST

Meet 7 Of India's Bravest Green Warriors Who Keep Our Wildlife Sanctuaries Safe

A herd of wild elephants from the nearby Rani forest reserve are seen in wetlands at Mikir village in the outskirts of Guwahati on May 19, 2012.  At least 25 wild elephants were sighted foraging for food in the wetlands late May 18. AFP PHOTO/STR        (Photo credit should read STRDEK/AFP/GettyImages)
AFP via Getty Images
A herd of wild elephants from the nearby Rani forest reserve are seen in wetlands at Mikir village in the outskirts of Guwahati on May 19, 2012. At least 25 wild elephants were sighted foraging for food in the wetlands late May 18. AFP PHOTO/STR (Photo credit should read STRDEK/AFP/GettyImages)

Seven conservationists will be awarded this month for their outstanding work in preserving Indian wildlife sanctuaries. These men have actively contributed to saving forests and protecting endangered fauna, sometimes at the cost of their own lives.

Each of these green soldiers shall be presented with a Wildlife Warrior Award, an initiative taken by NGO HCMWF (Hem Chand Mahindra Wildlife Foundation) and wildlife magazine Saveus.

The initiative was started in 2013 and has till now honoured the work of people from the more recognised areas such as Corbett and Ranthambore. This year however, the project shifted its focus to the lesser-known sanctuaries. Though not as popular, they host a wide variety of flora and fauna often targeted by poachers. These sanctuaries survive on small budgets and present hostile working conditions.

Here are the seven heroes who continue to preserve the Indian eco-system despite all odds.

  • Babu Rathod
    Babu Rathod
    Wildlife Warrior Awards
    Babu Rathod is not just another forest guard at the Brahmagiri Wildlife Sanctuary in Karnataka. With five years of experience under his belt, Rathod has been responsible for almost eliminating illegal fishing activities in the area. He has also nabbed a local Kerala border resident fearlessly at gunpoint, and has worked extensively in controlling forest fires throughout the sanctuary, made easier by his excellent networking skills. Last, but not least Rathod has also been effective in reducing man-animal conflict through the use of drums, crackers and EPT (Elephant Proof Trench) in critical villages such as Vebadaga, Nangalla and Kuttandi.
  • Biraj Barman
    Biraj Barman
    Wildlife Warrior Awards
    This forester is a stalwart leader in battles against local poachers in the Dibru-Saikhowa National Park (Assam), having arrested several after catching them in the act of poisoning waters for fishing, timber rafting and so on. At the age of 51, he is equally respected and feared for his struggles in protecting the park: he was injured in cross firing, but ultimately arrested a group of poachers with arms who were were involved in felling trees.
  • Atulkumar Bhanusankar Dave
    Atulkumar Bhanusankar Dave
    Wildlife Warrior Awards
    Having joined Banaskatha in social forestry in 1987, Dave has been working in several areas of Kutch. He was eventually posted to the Naliya GIB (Great Indian Bustard) Sanctuary, after making a documentary on The Flamingo City of Kutch in the early 2000s. He currently looks after GIB protected area, the Bhanara Wild Area and Kunathiya Wild Area, and is also working on the eco-restoration Plan for breeding of the Great Indian Bustard. In his efforts, Dave has also prepared sites for better breeding areas for the bird through grass plantation.
  • Isha Hasan Sumra
    Isha Hasan Sumra
    Wildlife Warrior Awards
    Also hailing from the Kutch Bustard Sanctuary in Gujarat, Isha Hasan Sumra has been termed the main hero of the eco-restoration plan for the breeding of the Great Indian Bustard. Not only has he been credited with finding every single nest for the last five years, he has also stood up time and again against the land mafia (he is still involved in court battles).
  • Kauleshar Bhagat
    Kauleshar Bhagat
    Wildlife Warrior Awards
    With over 38 years of experience as a forest guard, Kauleshar Bhagat, who works at the Dalma Wildlife Sanctuary, Jharkhand, (primarily an elephant reserve), has a vast understanding of these gentle beasts. He has built an effective information network that allows him to keep an eye on people's activities in the sanctuary and monitor wildlife - this includes an excellent rapport with the locals who act as his eyes and ears against poaching activities.
  • Mangal Kachhap
    Mangal Kachhap
    Wildlife Warrior Awards
    Assistant Conservator of Forests at the Dalma Wildlife Sanctuary, Jharkhand, Mangal Kacchap is responsible for uniting different tribal groups (approximately 85) in the area, and educating them about the perils of hunting endangered species, especially elephants (the sanctuary primarily caters to elephants). This is no mean feat given that the area is known for it's annual hunting festival Bishu Sikar, and the tribes have been practising hunting for traditional rites for several years. However, Kachhap has not only almost completely eradicating hunting, he has also helped improve basic conditions for tribals by developing facilities such as public bathrooms, and provisions for clean drinking water. In the past, Kachhap has also been awarded 'Best Forester' in 1984 and 'Best Range Officer' in 2008.
  • Pan Singh Gaunia
    Pan Singh Gaunia
    Wildlife Warrior Awards
    This 50-year-old hails from Nandhour Wildlife Sanctuary, Uttarakhand where he works as a beat guard. His daily routine involves intense patrolling around the area to track animal movements, ward off poachers and trespassers, and prevent forest fires amidst other duties with bare essentials as equipment. On returning from patrol duty one day, he was attacked by a female sloth bear who ripped the skin off his face, and ears. He was rescued by his colleague who managed to escape and brought back a team to save Gaunia. Although he was hospitalised for 20 days, and underwent a couple of surgeries, he returned to the job, and continues his duty even with limited resources to aid him against such attacks.
  • Baer’s Pochard
    Baer’s Pochard
    MikeLane45 via Getty Images
    This species is classified as Critically Endangered as it is apparently undergoing a extremely rapid population decline, as measured by numbers on both the breeding and wintering grounds. (Source: http://www.birdlife.org)
  • Siberian Cranes
    Siberian Cranes
    China Photos via Getty Images
    This critically endangered species is now only found in two populations, the eastern and western. A central population of Siberian Cranes once nested in western Siberia and wintered in India. (Source: www.savingcranes.org) In 2002, the last two Siberian cranes of the central flock failed to return to India. Their winter home, Keoladeo National Park, reeled under a drought and there was no water to house the birds. They were not reported from anywhere else in the country. Two more winters passed, and the birds still did not show up. It is now suspected that they are extinct (Source: http://www.wpsi-india.org).
  • Spoon-billed Sandpiper
    Spoon-billed Sandpiper
    Most researchers believe that two factors are responsible for the Spoon-billed Sandpipers population decline: the elimination of migratory stopover habitat, particularly in the Yellow Sea region, and subsistence hunting on the wintering grounds. (Source: http://www.birds.cornell.edu)
  • Whitebellied-Heron
    De Agostini Picture Library via Getty Images
    With roughly 200 White-Bellied Herons (Ardea Insignis) in the world today, herons are among the 50 rarest bird species on earth. Herons mostly dwell in Southeast Asian countries and presumably Bhutan shelters a little over 30 herons in the nation. (Source:WWF)
  • Bengal Florican
    Bengal Florican
    Lip Kee/Flickr
    This bustard has a very small, declining population; a trend that has recently become extremely rapid and is predicted to continue in the near future, largely as a result of the widespread and on-going conversion of its grassland habitat for agriculture. It therefore qualifies as Critically Endangered. (Source: http://www.birdlife.org)
  • Great Indian Bustard
    Great Indian Bustard
    Two years after the ministry of environment and forests (MoEF) talked about launching a special conservation programme for the Great Indian Bustard, a critically endangered species, experts are warning that the bird is in danger of becoming extinct. Lack of funds means the central government has made no progress at all on what many say is a critical matter. (Source: LiveMint March 12, 2015 news report)
  • Sociable Lapwing
    Sociable Lapwing
    UNDP in Europe and Central Asia/Flickr
    This species is listed as Critically Endangered because its population has undergone a very rapid reduction, for reasons that are poorly understood; this decline is projected to continue and increase in the future. (Source: www.birdlife.org)
  • Forest Owlet
    Forest Owlet
    AndrijaDjuketic via Getty Images
    Researchers have found the critically endangered ‘Forest Owlet’ in the northern part of the Western Ghats, 100 km from Mumbai. The International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) Red List has named this bird as the one facing a high risk of extinction. Till now, Forest Owlet was known endemic to Satpuda mountain ranges in central India. Its discovery in the Western Ghats has brought new hope about its survival. (Source: The Hindu on Nov 14., 2014)
  • Indian Vulture
    Indian Vulture
    STR via Getty Images
    This species is classified as Critically Endangered because it has suffered an extremely rapid population decline as a result of mortality from feeding on carcasses of animals treated with the veterinary drug diclofenac. (Source: www.birdlife.org)
  • Red headed vulture
    Red headed vulture
    Jasperboer via Getty Images
    This species has suffered an extremely rapid population reduction in the recent past which is likely to continue into the near future, probably largely as a result of feeding on carcasses of animals treated with the veterinary drug diclofenac, perhaps in combination with other causes. For this reason it is classified as Critically Endangered. (Source: www.birdlife.org)

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