What is truly civilized about Wild Orissa! | Milaap

What is truly civilized about Wild Orissa!

As my fellowship period with Milaap is counting its final days, I also have it in mind that I may not get the opportunity to reconnoiter with Orissa in such stretched superfluity ever in life. Apart from my regular visits for extracting stories about the various borrowers who have benefitted from Gram Utthan, Milaap’s field partners, I have spent considerable amount of time walking up and down the many sanctuaries and forests that Orissa nurtures in its womb. This got to me to thinking on what saves Orissa from the urbanization, buildings, roads and ruthless destruction of nature at every point. There are several organizations that work day in and out to maintain the much deranged balance between mankind and nature. Wild Orissa, however, stand out of the box because it is solely run by a group of active volunteers and no employees.

It was in the year 1997 that a young group of people got together to baptize an organization as Wild Orissa. More than the working of the organization, I was keen to know about the culture and the aims of it. So, I chalked out time to meet Ms. Monalisa Bhujabal, the Secretary and one of the founding members of Wild Orissa. She was a darling to give me 3 whole hours of her life and we sat together to discuss about -What makes Wild Orissa unique in its working. The initial aims of Wild Orissa were collaboration of ideas from the wildlife enthusiasts coming from different backgrounds. It was only after few years of struggle that the small brigade of initiators were joined by Police, Customs, Banking, C.As, Forests, Students, Researchers and so on.

Amongst many of their approaches, there are three exceptional steps that this organization took right from its days of induction. “I encourage my fellow mates not to wait for a big step but make every small step count”, says Monalisa. The workers of  organization went from door to door of  their own neighbourhood  to encourage the household to plant trees in their own area, trees that will allow the birds and insects to use them as their habitat. The participation of the urban and semi-urban civilization is of utmost necessity if conversation has to be a whole-hearted effort.  In her own locality, Monalisa has managed to encourage the women and old retired personnel to plant arrays of Neem trees and she often enjoy the sightings of birds early in the morning while she sips in her tea.

During her younger days, Monalisa would make it a point to go for every field visit that was conducted to study not just the flora and fauna of the interior areas of Orissa but also get an idea about the culture, the economic and social life of the villagers and tribes adjoin the areas. Monalisa made a very important point that a sanctuary cannot run successfully if the pockets of habitats are not taken into consideration. At the end of the day, they will be the constant caretakers of the zone. The resolve to conserve both resident and migratory birds in the in the Sundarpur Village located on the shores of Chilika, is a prime example of how positive awareness and perseverance can change the mindset of even poachers and hunters. About 35 villagers, who were at one time hunters, became members of Sri “Sri Baba Mukteser Deva Pakhi Surahksha Samiti” and took an oath in from of Lord Shiva for protecting bird’s habitat in and around the village.

When Bira Kisore Bhujbal, of Wild Orissa went for a visit to Berbara Forest near Banpur , he spotted a rare bird species, identified as dark brown-grey tailed Dollarbird was spotted in . It was not only the first recording in Orissa but also the whole on Central and East India.  These new findings have great significance beyond just nature “Conservation of the forests are critical not just from the perspective of the Eastern Ghats Ecosystem but also from the angle of the livelihood requirements of the humans residing around the forest”,  Monalisa’s words focus on the importance of a collaborative research on both the nature and the nurturers.

How do people like me come to know about the efforts of an organization like Wild Orissa that remains aloof of the radar of mainstream media and show biz? According to Monalisa, it is through the newsletters, journals and academic blogs that Wild Orissa has been successful in grabbing the attention of that section of population that is interested in wildlife conservation more than planning vacations near a sanctuary and clicking pictures with reptiles forced under captive breeding due to their reduction in numbers. I was thrilled to realise that Monalisa and I have a very similar posture towards the concept of “Eco-tourism”. “There is nothing ecological about tourism at any point of time”, Monialisa highlighted. All the eco centers do in reality is grab more attention towards the sanctuaries, reserves and forests and open doors for tourists to come and exploit the least bit of land left for the wild to enjoy and thrive. For her, and I second it completely, tourism needs to be restricted to areas where the wild does not interact. Flora and fauna specific to wildlife deserve to have a life of their own in solitude and habitat.  The Blackbuck population in Balukhand-Konark Wildlife Santuary which once used to be their glorious habitat, has considerably decreased with the open entry and exit of tourists for their entertainment. Wild Orissa has taken a decision to relocate some blackbucks at Ganjam so that they can breed at peace.

During the last two years the activities of Wild Orissa has accelerated a lot as volunteers drew closer without the urge for earning but sheer love for nature. Monalisa believes that she enjoys working on the field with them young naturalists much more than sitting and listening to lectures given on Wildlife Conservation in seminars she is bound to attend to increase the funding. Few of the in progress acts of Wild Orissa are Wild Tiger Conservation, Prevention of Waterfowl Poaching, Community Based Conservation, International Coastal Cleanups, Black buck Census etc.

There could not be a better conclusion to the fruitful  and like-minded conversation with Monalisa as she explained the logo of Wild Orissa, “ A logo in color with the head of the ‘Panthera Tigris’ in a green Orissa, signifies the ethos of the organization which will remain as hallmark for the years to come. As citizens of this great country it is our obligation to protect our Wildlife, Forests and environment”.

Note: The images have been received first hand from Monalisa Bhujabal, The Secretary of Wild Orissa.