The Balipara Foundation Awards introduced by the Balipara Foundation in 2013, stands as a platform to reward and encourage the efforts of grassroots conservationist and social entrepreneurs working tirelessly towards preserving the rich biodiversity of the Eastern Himalayas.

Balipara Foundation Awards

Arindam Dasgupta

Arindam Dasgupta, a graduate from the Institute of Rural Management (Anand) Gujarat, was working as an officer with Entrepreneurship Development Institute of India (EDII) in Guwahati back in 2005, where he decided to venture into the manufacturing of environment-friendly disposable dinnerware. He always had the dream of beginning a community-based startup for rural India and so he quit his job in EDII and joined a non-governmental organization called ‘Dhriti’, to promote areca nut sheaths and to work on the lines of community welfare. During the same time, he also began touring South India and visited around 40 areca nut plate production units.

Thereafter in the year 2009, Arindam established Tambul Plates Marketing Private Limited (TPMPL), which aimed at manufacture and marketing of areca nut plates in North-east India – Guwahati, Shillong and Dimapur, and other major cities including Delhi, Patiala, Patna, Mumbai and Kolkata. The main objective of TPMPL is to support producers of areca nut plates to market their products so that they need not worry about selling them. Due to TPMPL, the marketing reach of areca nut plates has extended to Europe, USA, South-east Asia and the Middle East.

Social Impact: TPMPL has helped in the training of more than 1000 individuals (out of which 400+ are women) in manufacturing areca nut plates. The organization has also helped local community members with high unemployment rates to get jobs. TPMPL has also provided additional income to sheath collectors, out of which the majority are women. (Sources: Seed Case Studies: Insights into Entrepreneurial Solutions for Sustainable Development). TPMPL has assisted in networking of areca nut producers with State Governments, NGOs, Institutions and Banks which has helped the local community in availing schemes/services, increasing outreach, improving technology and facilitating finance respectively for areca nut plate production projects. TPMPL is also involved in introducing solar lighting to the areca nut plate production units to address the problem of electricity shortage in villages.

Economic Impact: TPMPL helped increase sales and selling prices of areca nut sheaths for collectors by more than 30%. They are also working with the Assam Government to set up women-run household production units across 20+ districts of Assam. The company also created community production units for plates, which were owned and run by young men. From an economic point-of-view, the state of Assam contributes to 23% of the total plantation area of India to areca nut plantations alone. This makes enterprises like TPMPL very essential in Assam, so that areca nut sheaths are monetized, which otherwise would be simply discarded as garbage. TPMPL also developed a low cost, biomass-based, non-electrified dryer that can churn out 500 areca nut sheaths in 4-5 hours. They also designed a simple low cost stock room that enables storage of raw materials for +1 years. This has inadvertently helped in the increase of raw materials for areca nut producers. TPMPL is also involved in marketing of handloom and handicraft products and in the promotion of black pepper cultivation in areca nut plantations.

Environmental Impact: Base material of Tambul Plates is made out of biodegradable arecanut extracts and it discourages the use of plastic and styrofoam dinnerware. On an average the amount of CO₂ emissions are reduced by over 500 tonnes in the atmosphere. And use of areca nut-based plates help reduce plastic waste by atleast10 tonnes per year. (Sources: Seed Case Studies: Insights into Entrepreneurial Solutions for Sustainable Development). Use of areca nut sheaths also helps reduce deforestation in surrounding areas.

Awards and Achievements:

2013 – Winner of United Nations SEED – Low Carbon Award.

2013 – Finalist of The Changing Markets Award – 16th International Business Forum

2013 – Winner of Artha Venture Challenge.

2014 – Finalist of the National Skills Development Corporation – Skills Innovation Challenge (NSIC).

2015 – Discussion over Tambul Plates dealership and distribution outlets in Kenya with its market expectancy by early 2016.

Received seed investment from Upaya Social Ventures through ‘LiftUP Project’ that provides early-stage entrepreneurs with business development support and financial resources.

Green Guru Award

Uttam Teron

Born out of a humble household, son of a train driver father and a homemaker mother, Uttam Teron belongs to a hamlet called Pamohi, 12 kilometers away from Guwahati. A member of the Karbi tribal community of Assam, Teron was fortunate enough to get educated at Cotton College and Arya Vidyapeeth College in Guwahati. Post the completion of his education, after returning home, Teron noticed that very few children from his village went to schools. There were multiple social, geographic and economic factors that restricted the children from getting educated. Remoteness of the village from Guwahati was one of the causes, and so was the fact that villagers in Pamohi were inherently from poorer households who supported themselves by doing mining activities and agriculture. Most children were seen helping their parents on fields or doing household chores. Teron loved teaching, and to keep himself occupied, he began tutoring the children of his village. This was also the time when he noticed many of the children faced difficulty in reading, and a lot of them also discontinued studies midway. Teron strongly felt that every child should have access to proper education and realized that there was an urgent need for school in his village. All these factors motivated him to start ‘Parijat Academy’ – a school that provided free education and boarding to underprivileged children.
He established Parijat Academy in 2003 by spending his hard earned money of ₹800 as a tutor, to convert a cowshed into a classroom and four students to begin with. In the initial phases there were times in the academy when Teron was unable to pay his teachers with salary for long durations. And also securing funds for supporting the students with a classroom-environment and basic educational supplies used to be difficult. Teron still continued to support the academy, even if he had to take loans or favors. And Teron was gifted to have his parents and a few of his friends and well-wishers support him in his cause. Media attention brought about a lot of positive change to Teron’s initiative. Quite a few social welfare organizations and individuals contributed to the academy either financially or by providing some form of support. Volunteer teachers from India and abroad started approaching Teron to help him run the academy. And many organizations sent the academy old textbooks and stationery for the students. Teron was awarded with the Green Guru Award in 2013 by Balipara Foundation, to motivate and encourage his initiative in supporting underprivileged children receive education. And since, he has won multiple awards and accolades that have kept him motivated to his cause.

At present his ‘Academy’ as he likes to call it, provides schooling for 500+ children, out of which an equal or more number of the students are girls. He has also managed to set up a hostel for the students where he houses a proportional number of his students with food accommodation and other basic amenities.

Social Impact: He helped more than 500 children receive education in the tribal villages of Assam, including Pamohi, Maghuapara, Deosutal, Garchuk, Mainakhorong, Dhalbama, Nowagaon, Garoghuli, Garbhanga, Ahomgaon, Kotokipara, Chakardo, Pahamjila and Natun Garbhanga. Teron has also introduced the children to computer skills, sewing, art/craft and various other youth programs.

Economic Impact: By providing free education to the children of tribal villagers who mainly depend on mining for a living, Teron is providing the future of tribal community members with alternative livelihood options that will promote them to take up well-paid and better jobs.

Ecological Impact: Teron is assisting in diverting the younger generation away from mining activities and sensitizing them towards nature and environment. He regularly carries out nature treks, organic farming programs and self-sustaining programs with the children. He also collects school supplies by reusing old books, bags and stationery.

Awards and Recognition: 

2009 – Social Service Award by Eastern India Women’s Association

2010 – Was listed as one of the 35 Youth Icons of India by India Today

2011 – Real Hero award by CNN-IBN

2013 – Social Service Award by Paresh Bhaishya Foundation

2014 – Global Visionary Award by The Vision Foundation, Ahmedabad

Green Legal Award

Gautam Uzir

Gautam Uzir has been a practicing lawyer at the Guwahati High Court since 1984. He is also a highly regarded and eminent lawyer in Assam, well-versed in several branches of the discipline of law. He is renowned for his accomplishments regarding public interest litigations in the field of environment, forest and wildlife cases. He is also a regular guest lecturer at the Assam Forest School situated at Jalukbari (Assam) and Central Academy for State Forest Service, Burnihat, Assam. He is also a member of State board of Wildlife, Assam. He authored the 1st edition of the compilation publication, ‘Assam Forest Manual’ in 2009. Social Impact: Gautam helped set up and bring order to the education system for the blind in Assam. He also helped secure justice for leprosy victims. He was also involved in litigation of manholes in public footpaths Economic Impact: Gautam was involved in the revival of public sector undertakings in Assam. Ecological Impact: Gautam, as a public interest lawyer, played a major role in checking on encroachment in forest areas of Assam. He also was able to secure directions from the Guwahati High Court against the Ledo Margherita open cast mining and set up an effluent treatment plant at Digboi. He is also involved in the fight against rhino poaching in Kaziranga National Park. He also brought to notice about how the present railway track at Depor Bell will degrade the southern side of Beel and cause great impact to the Rani-Garbhanga-Depor Beel elephant corridor. 2012 – Carried out a ‘Rufford Small Grant’ Funded Project with Bibhuti P Lahkar (M.Sc.) – Conservation of Hoolock Gibbon (Bunipithecus hoolock) and Asian Elephant (Elephas maximus) in Gibbon Wildlife Sanctuary, Assam, India through strengthening of communication and capacity building of frontline Forest Staff. 2012 – Part of the ‘Conservation of Nature: Role of Lawyers’ Seminar at Guwahati University.

Eco Restoration Award

Jadav Payeng

Jadhav ‘Mulai’ Payeng belongs to the ‘Mishing’ tribe (one of the largest ethnic groups of Assam). He used to live in the forest ‘Mulai Kathoni’ at Aruna Chapori, with his wife and three children where his only source of income was selling milk. (He recently moved to his ancestral village in Jorhat District for the sake of his children’s education). ‘Mulai Kathoni’ – the forest was the name given by the Government of Assam, and it is called rightly so as he was the one who helped create it.

The journey to ‘Mulai Kathoni’ (Kathoni translates to forest in Assamese) begun when Jadhav, in 1979, then a 19-year old ordinary individual observed that due to lack of trees, plenty of heat-struck snakes died in the banks of Brahmaputra River, after a flood had hit Assam. When he asked the elders of his village what could be done to save them, they said that there is nothing he could do alone as the animals had lost their habitat and the only way to help would be by bringing the forests back. Payeng then approached the Forest Department if trees could be grown in the banks. The Forest Department replied by saying that nothing would grow in the banks besides bamboo, and they also added that it was a difficult task to carry out. Payeng took up on himself to painstakingly carry out bamboo plantations in one of the riverine islands of Brahmaputra. For a year he continued with plantations in the site. Then in 1980, he joined as a labourer in ‘Project Aruna Chapori’ which was initiated by the social forestry division of the district of Golaghat situated nearly five kilometers away from Kokilamukh in Jorhat District, Assam. After the completion of the 5-year project, Payeng remained in the forest and continued to plant saplings to the site. He also managed to look after the site which was slowly being converted into a healthy forest itself. Today, the same forest – ‘Mulai Kathoni’ is more than 5.5 sq.km. and is larger than Central Park, New York. In 2012, Payeng was honored by Jawaharlal Nehru University, Vice-Chancellor Sudhir Kumar Sopory as – ‘The Forest Man of India’. He was later awarded the ‘Ecological Restoration Award’ by Balipara Foundation in 2013.

Social Impact: Jadav has become an inspiration for the current generation on how a single individual’s contribution can be influential enough to bring about positive change in the environment.

Economic impact: Jadav’s contribution did not have a direct economic impact, but his role in creation of the ‘man-made forest’ has helped in the development of ecosystem services, the value of which is unmeasurable quantitatively to mankind.

Ecological Impact: The Forest Jadav helped grow, ‘Mulai Kathoni’ provides shelter to at least three rhinoceros and multiple other ungulates. It is also home to more than four Bengal Tigers (Panthera tigris). A herd of 150 elephants are known to regularly inhabit the Mulai forest each year. The avian diversity of Mulai forest is quite diverse with a good population of vultures. The forest is also home to thousands of trees among which are arjun, valcol, gulmohur, ejar, himolu, moj koroi, and hilikha are noteworthy.

Awards and Recognition: 

2013 – Payeng was honored at the Indian Institute of Forest Management during their annual event ‘Coalescence’.

2014 – Movie on Jadav Payeng entitled, ‘Forest Man’, directed by William Douglas McMaster won the best documentary at the American Pavilion at the Cannes Film Festival.

2015 – Bridgewater Township Shade Tree Board (Team Arbor) and the Assam Foundation of North America (AFNA) felicitated Payeng with a Tree Plantation Ceremony in Martinsville, Virginia, United States of America.

2015 – Payeng was nominated for CNN Hero by members of FASS Executive Committee to promote about his work.

2015 – Payeng was honored with the Padma Shri Award, the fourth highest civilian award in India.

Payeng was the subject of a children’s book, ‘Jadhav and the Tree Palace’, written and illustrated by Vinayak Sharma and published by the open-source children’s publishing platform ‘StoryWeaver’ and production was funded by a grant from Oracle Giving Initiative.

Eastern Himalaya Conservation Award

Dr Anwarudin Choudhary

Anwaruddin Choudhary is an ornithologist, mammalogist, artist, civil servant, photographer and author of several books on wildlife, notably known for writing a book on ‘Mammals of India’ in 2016. Starting off with a background in science, Anwaruddin received his Bachelor of Arts degree with Honours in Geography from the B. Borooah College, Guwahati in 1981. He then went on to Guwahati University to obtain his Master of Arts Degree in Geography in 1985. He obtained his Ph.D. on primates in 1989 and also became the only second person to get a Doctorate in Science degree from Guwahati University, based on a study on mammals in 2008. Professionally, Anwaruddin has been serving as an Assam Civil Service Officer since 1983, holding various important posts such as Executive Magistrate, Research Officer, Sub-divisional Officer (civil), Project Director of Rural Development, Project Coordinator of Shifting Cultivation control, Joint Secretary of Environment & Forests, Tourism; Director of Tea, Deputy Commissioner & District Magistrate. Anwaruddin is also known for his artistic talent related to nature and wildlife documentation in India. His artworks have been published in various Indian and International scientific journals, magazines and periodicals including the Oriental Bird Club Bulletin, published from the United Kingdom. He has contributed in including his illustrations in all the books he has authored. Anwaruddin has also contributed immensely in the field of Indian Ornithology. Starting off as a casual birdwatcher, progressed towards the scientific approach in the early 1980s. His contribution includes writing several articles for popular magazines as well as also writing a regular weekly column on the ‘Birds of Assam’ in ‘The Sentinel’, an English daily published in Guwahati. His publications in daily newspapers in the 1980s brought him recognition in the field of ornithology in Assam and other North-eastern states of India. And his scientific publications brought him into notice among researchers worldwide. His pioneering work in conservation also contributed greatly to the awareness of wildlife conservation in North East India. His stewardship of the Rhino Foundation for nature in North East India as well as his other activities was recognised and he was appointed a member of the State Board for Wildlife, the highest policy making official body on wildlife in 2003 by the Government of Assam. The Government of Assam has also made him members of two other high official bodies, the State Wetland Steering Committee in 2003 and State Pollution Control Board in 2008. Prior to that the Government of India made the Rhino Foundation for nature in North East India a member of the Indian Board for Wildlife in 1999. He was one of early members of the World Wide Fund for Nature (formerly called the World Wildlife Fund), and the Bombay Natural History Society in North-East India (since 1981) and has actively contributed towards their activities in this region including wildlife surveys, awareness and identification of Important Bird Areas. Anwaruddin is a member of more than nine IUCN/SSC/BLI Specialist Groups. He is also a member of IUCN/SSC Asian Elephant, Asian Rhino, Asian Wild Cattle, Bear, Cat and Small Carnivore Specialist Groups, and IUCN/SSC/BLI Waterbird and Galliformes Specialist Groups. In addition he is a member of IUCN/SSC Primate Specialist Group’s South Asian Network and was also with the IUCN/SSC Conservation Breeding Specialist Group. Social Impact: As a bureaucrat, Anwaruddin Choudhury was influential in ensuring a rural district of Assam to start e-governance giving transparency to the rural poor. He also took active part and partially succeeded in reducing social murders in the name of witch-hunting in remote areas such as Baksa district at the edge of Eastern Himalaya in Assam. Dr. Choudhury’s influence helped save many protected areas in North-East India from environmentally destructive developmental projects. The diversion of a National Highway from Manas National Park and Tiger Reserve is a recent example. He always spoke against such projects including mega dams. Anwaruddin visited the remote Himalayan region in Arunachal Pradesh and Bhutan, and to the mountainous regions of Nagaland, Manipur and Mizoram in between year 1980-90, where he noticed that the landscape was occupied by people of the Tibetan-Burman and Tibeto-Chinese ethnicity and who heavily supplement their income by hunting wildlife (except Bhutan). Choudhury explored and studied the vanishing wildlife of that region and he also helped in motivating the local community towards conservation. Economic Impact: Anwaruddin’s contribution to science and conservation has very little or direct impact through an economic viewpoint. But notably, he has helped in the securing of multiple protected areas, that provides the community with invaluable ecosystem services. Environmental Impact: Anwaruddin is the author of more than 500 scientific articles and papers, including 17 authored books and monographs on Ecology and Environment, and also 29 detailed survey reports on wildlife. He is also the founder of the Rhino Foundation for Nature. He has been involved in scientific research and conservation work in the North-east Indian landscape for more than 25 years. He has also carried out detailed and systematic bird surveys in various regions in North-east India. Anwaruddin was also responsible for the rediscovery of a rare galliform species, Manipur Bush Quail (Perdicula manipurensis), which was last seen 75 years ago. He has also documented several country-based records of new birds in India and Bhutan. He also serves as the coordinator of Asian Mid-winter Waterfowl Census for Assam as well as the whole of North-east India. He is also the State Coordinator of the Indian Bird Conservation Network. Anwaruddin has also done pioneering work in identifying the status and range distribution of the endangered White-winged Wood Duck (Asarcornis scutulata) and Mrs Hume’s Pheasant (Syrmaticus humiae) in India. He also led a two-decade long research project on primates, starting from Dima Hasao District and extending to the whole of North-east India in the later years. Some of his most significant contributions to mammalian research was the discovery and distribution of two species of flying squirrels that was new to science, back in 2007 and 2009. The flying squirrels were named by him as Petaurista mechukaensis (nigra) and Petaurista mishmiensis. Anwaruddin also discovered a new subspecies of primate Macaca thibetana for science in the North-east Indian region, which was later described as a separate primate species called the Macaca munzala, by other scientists. He also revealed that the Stump-tailed and Pig-tailed macaques are restricted by the Brahmaputra river towards the west of their range. His authoritative works on the wild water buffalo have been published as the first monograph on the endangered species. Choudhury’s work in conservation has resulted in the protection of a large number of areas in North-East India, more particularly Assam. Due to his work, at least 12 wildlife sanctuaries have been established, including Bordoibam-Bilmukh, Pani-Dihing, Barail, Bherjan-Borajan-Padumoni, Dihing-Patkai, Hollongapar Gibbon, Nambor-Doigrung, Nambor, East Karbi Anglong, North Karbi Anglong, Amchang and Marat Longri; and two Elephant Reserves, the Dhansiri-Lungding and Dihing-Patkai. He was also instrumental in upgrading Dibru-Saikhowa into a national park, inclusion of Laokhowa and Bura Chapori Sanctuaries in Kaziranga Tiger Reserve and declaration of the White-winged Wood Duck as the State Bird of Assam. Interestingly, he is among very few fortunate scientists who could implement their own scientific/conservation recommendations later on as a bureaucrat. Many of the above have been officially notified and gazetted by himself as the Joint Secretary to the Government in the Environment & Forest Department. He was also a key member of the Assam Forest Policy Drafting Committee. His writings in the 1980s also resulted in shelving of a railway project through the southern edge of world famous Kaziranga National Park and World Heritage Site. Awards and Achievements: Recipient of Gold Medal from Guwahati University Recipient of a medal by the North-east Indian Geographical Society Recipient of the Forktail-Leica Award for Mrs Hume’s Pheasant study by the Oriental Bird Club Recipient of the OBC-Wild Wings Conservation Award, United Kingdom, for contribution towards conserving the biodiversity of Nagaland.

Food for the Future Award

Neelam Dutta

Lakshmi Agriculture Multipurpose Project (LAMP) is a composite farm established way back in 1978-79 by late Dr Hemen Dutta. It is situated in the village of Pabhoi in Sonitpur district of Assam covering around 12 hectares of land. Various farming activities like scientific fisheries, fish seed eco-hatchery and indigenous breeding of local fish varieties as well as ornamental fishes, takes place at LAMP. Neelam Dutta, the proprietor of LAMP, works on the motive of increasing productivity, availability and affordability of agricultural products. Neelam began working on agriculture and related projects from the age of 17, and has been exploring related fields like fish rearing, fish breeding, paddy cultivation, exotic vegetable cultivation, organic manure and bio-pesticide production. Neelam is also involved with the Assam Agricultural University through an MOU, towards research based propagation of efficient agricultural practices. He is also a well-known consultant in India in the Organic Agriculture Domain. Over the recent years, LAMP has diversified into Dairy, Nursery and Bio-Research as well. Neelam has played an active role in providing knowledge and training consultancy to farmers and institutions. LAMP also provides onsite consultancy to farms, fisheries and nurseries in productivity and practice issues. Neelam has been awarded in both state and national level for his contribution towards the field of organic farming.

Social Impact: LAMP grows different types of indigenous (Indica and Japonica) and high-yielding varieties of rice (Joha, Kumol, Bora and Aijong saul).

Ecological Impact: LAMP follows and promotes organic cultivation of common and exotic varieties of crops. LAMP also makes use of vermiculture hatcheries instead of chemical fertilizers for increasing productivity in its agricultural, horticultural and plantation crops. Highlight of LAMP has been fish production.

Economic Impact: LAMP’s diary has steadily been growing in its capacity and productivity since its inception. LAMP has also

Awards and Recognition:

2014 – Neelam was awarded the prestigious Haladhar Organic Farmer Award, 2014 recently by the Indian Council of Agricultural Research, Government of India in New Delhi.

2015 – Neelam Dutta was part of the organizing team to conduct a training program in organic farming for farmers, students, NGOs, government organizations and the people of Nagaland.

2016 – Neelam won the ‘Mahindra Samriddhi Krishi Samrat Samman’ – Farmer of the Year Award (Male) – Mahindra Samriddhi India Agri Awards (MSIAA) in Delhi.

Nature Conservancy Award

Karbi Anglong Police Department

Wildlife poaching incidents were on a high in 2012. Floodwaters and rampant poaching of Indian rhinoceros (Rhinoceros unicornis) was deeply concerning issues to Assam’s Wildlife. This was the time when the government initiated an investigation by the Wildlife Crime Control Bureau and also strengthened the Forest Protection Force with high-caliber arms. During the same time KAPD took stern steps to combat rhino poaching in Karbi-Anglong District adjoining the southern part of Kaziranga.

A long history of one-horned rhino poaching in Assam influenced KAPD to work dedicatedly towards wildlife crime. Hard work and honest officers with their wide network of informants and countless hours of effort finally brought KAPD their breakthrough when they arrested seven individuals in Roja Pahar Area, Assam when they were involved in the poaching of a rhino on the 13th of October 2012. Following which seven more poachers were arrested by KAPD with possession of an AK-47 rifle and .303 rifle. A long list of arrests related to rhino poaching occurred after the initial arrests and at least 47 suspects were caught in this duration. During the same course, multiple active and surrendered militants belonging to several outfits were also arrested for involvement in rhino poaching or any other related crime.

Social Impact: KAPD’s operations to combat wildlife trade and crime was at around the time when the state of Assam was recuperating from aftereffects from flood and dealing with constant communal violence. KAPD was also involved in relief work of flood-affected populations and regions of Assam. KAPD was also able to do all this work under the threat of militancy in Assam.

Economic Impact: KAPD’s work has not directly resulted in economic impact, but their crackdown on wildlife trade has helped reduce the wildlife trade activity in Assam.

Ecological Impact: KAPD’s efforts have directly resulted in securing the population of the existing One-horned rhinoceros in Kaziranga National Park and neighboring areas. KAPD’s contribution in controlling the wildlife trade and crime managed to damage the network of poachers, middlemen and buyers. The overall number of poaching cases have also gone down since the KAPD’s involvement.

Awards and Recognition:

2012 – WWF India felicitates KAPD for their work on controlling Wildlife Crime.

2013 – Wildlife Crime exclusive Police Stations set up in Kaziranga National Park, Manas National Park and Pobitora Wildlife Sanctuary.

2015 – Prabhakar Barua Rhino Conservation Trust awarded Assam Police Inspector Naba Kumar Borah, Officer-in-charge of Diphu Police Station in Karbi Anglong.

2016 – KAPD arrested a poacher involved in a Tokay Gecko smuggling case.

2016 – Guwahati High Court orders Assam Government to empower KAPD to file charge sheets against wildlife-crime related cases.

2016 – KAPD with the Assam Police Department and Special Task Force nabbed four most wanted rhino poachers along with firearms.

Young Naturalist Award

Munjali Tokbipi

A member of the Karbi Community, Munjali has been working relentlessly to protect wildlife and green cover in the Karbi-Anglong landscape along with local communities, for which she was awarded the Young Naturalist Award by Balipara Foundation back in 2013 when she was 27 years old. Munjali’s father works as a government employee and her mother is a housewife, and they both supported her on her choice to take an upbeat career path and work towards wildlife conservation. Munjali completed her graduation in Geography from Diphu Government College and completed her post-graduation diploma on Natural Resource Management from Nowgong Girl’s College under Guwahati University in the year 2011. After which she went on to spend considerable time with local communities in distant villages to document and explore its past and present wildlife, and also to motivate local resident communities towards a sustainable lifestyle. Munjali joined northeast India-based wildlife NGO – Aaranyak and got involved in the first ever ecological research project in the Karbi-Anglong district, which was also a part of the Tiger Research and Conservation Initiative. She is the first woman from the Karbi Community to work on Wildlife Research and Conservation.

The Karbi Anglong landscape is home to several tribal communities who lead a traditional lifestyle that is intricately linked to the forests. The region has also a long history of civil unrest and armed conflict which has restricted development and modernization among communities. The Karbi-Anglong landscape stands at about 7000 sq.km. which meets Kaziranga National Park in the north. The landscape has been understudied in the past and post the project structured by Aaranayak, interesting findings and results have been revealed. The study was aimed at assessing patterns of large mammal distribution in the Karbi-Anglong landscape, and also to look into the interactions between wildlife and local communities. The study also aimed at assessing the overall conservation potential of the landscape. Munjali was a part of data generation of spatial databases of settlements and roads. And she also conducted training programs for the local youth to carry out wildlife surveys in the landscape. A grid-based methodology was used by the field team to survey the local communities to inquire about animal signs/surveys and also about their occupancy in the landscape. The field team also carried out structured interviews with the key informants of the landscape – hunters, shifting agriculturists, etc. Munjali led and helped carry out the project in the Karbi-Anglong landscape, despite their team facing accessibility issues in a volatile environment that faced inter-tribal conflict. The project was funded by a U.S, based organization-Panthera. The total cost of the project was almost ₹ 5 Lakhs.

Social Impact: Munjali is the first female wildlife researcher from the Karbi-Anglong landscape to take up wildlife conservation and management as a full-time career. In process, she has become an inspiration for the local youth, especially the women of tribal communities to follow the similar upbeat career paths that Munjali started. She also was a part of the training programs that helped mobilize more than 50 youth of Karbi-Anglong landscape in the training for wildlife data collection.

Economic Impact: Munjali’s work did not result in the direct delivery of economic outputs but her involvement in the ecological research work in the Karbi-Anglong landscape has helped expose the youth of the region to adopt livelihood opportunities by supporting wildlife conservation based initiatives.

Ecological Impact: Results of the Karbi-Anglong occupancy study of large mammals, which Munjali was a part of, carried out more than 12,000 interviews with informants (hunters, shifting agriculturists, etc) in 285 grids in the study area. The study revealed that 70% of the total area of the district was permeable to tiger movement. The study also found that 90%of the area had elephant, wild pig and barking deer presence. The study also revealed that tigers, sambar and gaur had restricted distribution in the landscape. The study also helped reveal that human-wildlife conflict was one of the major issues existing in the landscape.

Awards and Recognition: 

2013 – Participated in the 3-week international ‘Behavioral Change Conservation Campaign Course in Tadoba-Andhari Tiger Reserve (TATR), organized by Satpuda Foundation, in collaboration with Amravati University, state wildlife department, Nature Conservation Society Amravati (NCSA) and Environment Education Conservation Global (EECG), USA.

2013 – Won the 2nd Best presentation for her research work on ‘Large Mammal Occupancy from Interviews’ in the Karbi-Anglong Landscape – Student Conference on Conservation Science at the University of Queensland in Brisbane, Australia.

2013 – Munjali was part of the Flood Awareness Campaign along with Arif Hussain, under the guidance of Dr Firoz Ahmad (Supporting partners of the campaign – Aaranyak NGO and Numaligarh Refinery Limited in association with the Kaziranga National Park authority).

Annual Award

William Oliver

“If we could all make as tangible a contribution to conservation as William did, the world would indeed be in much better shape.”, were the quotes of a colleague from the IUCN Wild Pig Specialist Group, after William passed away in the Philippines in 2014. William Oliver was one of the world’s most profound Wild Pig Conservationists. His contribution towards the recovery of the critically endangered Pygmy Hogs in the wild is notable. He is also responsible for the reclassification of pygmy hogs from the genus ‘Sus’ to a separate new genus ‘Porcula’. Oliver undertook the Pygmy Hog field survey in Assam in 1977, and from then onwards became sensitized and passionate towards the conservation of Wild Pigs and other lesser fauna from India, Philippines and other parts of the globe. He played a major role in the establishment of the original Pigs and Peccaries Specialist Group (Now renamed the IUCN Wild Pig Specialist Group) in 1980 at the invitation of Sir Peter Scott, then Chair of the Species Survival Commission (SSC). Oliver played a key role in the establishment of the International Conservation Management and Research Agreement between the Union Ministry of Environment and Forests, Assam Forest Department, The Pigs, Peccaries and Hippos Specialist Group, and The Jersey Wildlife Preservation Trust. The result of the agreement was the formation of the Pygmy Hog Conservation Programme (PHCP). The PHCP is majorly a captive breeding programme for preparing the critically endangered pygmy hogs to be released in the wild. They are also involved in restoration of grassland habitats. At present there are two active pygmy hog captive breeding centers in Assam. Before Pygmy Hogs, Oliver initially got involved in the field of wildlife and conservation by working as an animal keeper and Education Officer at Marwell Zoo. After which he joined the Durrell Zoo in 1974. This was also the place where he understood the importance of zoos and captive programs for the survival of threatened species in the wild. William initially formed the action plan for conserving pygmy hogs in 1977, and it took him almost two decades to convince the state of Assam and Government of India to take steps towards conserving them. After which, the PHCP breeding center was up and running with an initial captive population of 6 hogs. And in the end of May 2016, the 100th captive pygmy hog was released into the wild, into the forests. With a declining population between 200-500 pygmy hogs in the wild, and its major population being confined to the north-western part of Assam in Manas National Park, the ex-site conservation model that was initiated by Oliver brings hope for the survival of pygmy hogs in the future. The PHCP reintroduction program has released pygmy hogs in Sonai Rupai Wildlife Sanctuary and Orang National Park and the current census indicated that there are 35 and 118 pygmy hogs inhabiting Sonai Rupai and Orang respectively. Oliver was also a renowned and respected wildlife artist for which he would be invited by Jersey Post to design stamps. And he was also known for his wildlife paintings and book illustrations. A species of Wild Pig is named after him in his remembrance, Sus oliveri. Social Impact: Oliver was completely involved in the field of wildlife conservation, and hence, his social impact was not significant. Economic Impact: Since Oliver was completely devoted his time in the conservation of threatened animals,his work did not carry significant economic value. Environmental Impact: Besides setting up of the Pygmy Hog Conservation Programme, Oliver also took efforts towards the conservation of other wild animals like the Visayan Spotted Deer, Philippine Hornbills and the Negros Bleeding-heart Pigeon in the Philippines. He was also instrumental in declaring the Danjugan Island in Philippines as a nature reserve by involving the World Land Trust Organization. He assisted in the setting up of the Biodiversity Conservation Foundation in Philippines. Oliver also undertook efforts towards conservation of the critically endangered Visayan Warty Pig (Sus cebifrons) in the Philippines.

Lifetime Service Award

Anne Wright

Anne Wright was born the daughter of British ICS Officer and she spent her childhood in the forests of Central India. She is also the founder trustee of World Wildlife fund for Nature – India, which she helped setup in the late 1960s. She was appointed by the late Prime Minister Indira Gandhi as a member of the Tiger Task Force for Project Tiger in 1970. She then served for 19 years on the Indian Board for Wildlife and was closely involved with the passing of the Wildlife Protection Act. She was awarded ‘Order of the Golden Ark’ and the ‘Most Excellent order of the British Empire’ for her contributions towards wildlife.

Her journey to being one of the initial pioneers to ‘Wildlife Conservation in India’ begun with her growing up in the Central Provinces (CP), among the jungles of Balaghat and Melghat, where she learnt about observing wildlife and other basic field skills that set her path towards becoming a vivid wildlife explorer. Her mother died at the age of 12 after which she did not visit India until she was 17 years old, when her father was posted as a Counselor to the First British High Commissioner of Independent India. She then married Bob Wright, a merchant from Kolkata and continued to live there with occasional visits to England. Initially, Anne and her husband would indulge in social hunting of wild animals in the forests of Bihar. She was even close to killing a tiger herself, but fortunately it evaded from getting shot. Anne felt strongly to bring about positive change towards wildlife during the 1968 drought in Bihar, where poachers would target and kill wild animals that made use of the only remaining waterholes to quench their thirst. She managed to raise funds to set up rescue camps for wild animals in Northern Bihar where the team dug up riverbeds and filled them with water using tankers. Anne then convinced S.P. Shahi, CCF of Bihar to contribute in their work which resulted in the initiative providing water to not just wildlife in its landscape but also 17 forest villages as well. She then encouraged CCF Shahi to give up his guns and resort to documenting wildlife using cameras. After her stint in Bihar, she started working towards combating illegal wildlife trade in Kolkata and uncovering the extent to which tigers were being killed illegally without proper hunting licenses, to facilitate the wildlife trade demand. Anne wrote an article for the Stateman in 1970 and New York Times in 1971 on the illegal trade of wild animals, especially tigers and leopards in India. Her articles were one of the initial documentations that highlighted the poaching and hunting scenario that India faced post-independence. Anne was a member of the state wildlife boards of West Bengal, Sikkim, Orissa, Bihar, Arunachal Pradesh, Meghalaya, Andaman and Nicobar Islands. She is also a chairperson of the Rhino Foundation through which she has contributed towards saving the Rhinos of Northeast India.

Social Impact: Anne’s initiative to provide waterholes in the forests of Bihar during the draught of 1968 resulted in the Forest Department also providing water to 17 forest villages.

Economic Impact: Kipling Camp, a sustainable wildlife tourism-based camp that she started, provides employment to local community members in and around Kanha National Park in Madhya Pradesh, India

Ecological Impact: Anne was a part of the Tiger Task Force that was constituted in 1970 by late Prime Minister Indira Gandhi along with other influential members like Dr. Karan Singh, Dr. M.K. Ranjitsinh, Zafar Futehally and Kailash Sankhala. She was a part of the team that helped declare India’s first nine tiger reserves. The program was funded by the Central Government and Guy Mountfort of WWF. The program required Anne to stay in two of the tiger reserves for three months each and she chose Palamau in Bihar and Manas in Assam. She was also influential in redrafting of the 1912 act that levied a fine of Rs.50 for hunting tigers. A new Wildlife Protection Act Law was passed all over India except for the states of Jammu and Kashmir, which helped deter hunting and poaching of wildlife in India. During her tenure as state wildlife board member of several states in India, the board team pushed forward the creation of Bhitarkanika Wildlife Sanctuary (WLS) in Orissa in 1975, Dalma WLS in 1976, Gautam Buddha Wildlife Sanctuary in Bihar in 1976, Buxa Tiger Reserve in West Bengal in1983, Namdapha National Park in Arunachal Pradesh in 1983, Sundarbans National Park in West Bengal in 1984, Nameri in Assam in 1985, Dibru Saikhowa Wildlife Sanctuary in Assam in 1986, Neora Valley National Park in West Bengal in 1986, Balphakram National Park in Meghalaya in 1986, Chilka Lake in Orissa in 1987, and Jaldapara in West Bengal in 1990.

Awards and Achievements:

1983 – Awarded the ‘Most Excellent order of the British Empire’

2013 – Lifetime Service Award by Sanctuary Asia Magazine