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Sun, 16 Jun 2019

Northeast Today

The Godfather to the Wild

The Godfather to the Wild
June 14
17:25 2019

A man with an extraordinary vision and abundant affection towards nature has been rescuing thousands of animals, reptiles and birds since 2005 in the vicinity of the Kaziranga National Park. In an effort to restore the balance of Mother Nature by rescuing and fostering needy animals and birds, he is now conceded as ‘the man who speaks nature’.  In his humble words, Manoj Gogoi unfolds his rollicking journey so far to Dipanti Lahon.

Manoj Gogoi

 

How and when did your journey to save the wild begin?

It was the year 2005 when I started off with my journey. However, it wasn’t official at that time. The very first fact about me is that I have never been to College; I could only study till higher secondary school. Initially, to earn my bread I used to drive my friend Diganta Bora’s Jeep. I used to take tourists on Jeep safari in Kaziranga National Park. The person who brought me to this path is Ashok Verma, a man from Mumbai who was then researching in Kaziranga for Bombay Natural History Society (BNHS). One fine afternoon, I got back from a safari ride and parked my jeep in its usual place near Kaziranga Wildlife Society and then I noticed a man standing in front of me reading a book. Out of curiosity I stood behind him and tried to sneak a peek of what he was reading. Ashok turned back and asked me if I needed anything. I replied casually that the book looked interesting. He paused for a while and asked if I was interested in learning about birds since the book was about birds. As I replied yes, he threw a series of questions at me like whether I can drive him around Kaziranga and Karbi Anglong, would it be difficult to manage my work etc. Although he mentioned that he could pay me a very minimal amount, something occurred to me and I could not deny him at all. Next thing that happened is he gave me a binocular, a few packets of biscuits and a water bottle from his hotel room and we took off to Karbi Anglong right away. Thereafter I stayed a week working with him. He taught me a lot about birds and how to rescue them in that short span of time. Ashok Verma led my way and since then I have never stepped back.

How many animals, birds and reptiles have you rescued so far?

Manoj Gogoi

 

To be honest I didn’t think of keeping a count when I first started.  During 2005 to 2006, I only rescued animals and birds. Reptiles, basically snakes, came into the picture only in 2007. I precisely remember that it was October 10th when I first rescued a snake which was a Python. Up until 2007, I did not keep count of the birds or the animals I have rescued. However, as of now the count of the rescued is over four thousand and still increasing.

What inspires you to carry on your work?

Nature has always been the driving force to all the things I have been doing so far as I am born and brought in the lap of greenery and wilderness. Growing up in the vicinage of Kaziranga has given me a feeling of responsibility towards the wild, be it animals, reptiles or birds. I feel that they are a part of our lives and I should protect them since they can’t. However, there is an incident that has made me more determined to carry on with my cause. One fine Sunday morning I was taking a walk in the streets of my village i.e. Bosagaon. When I walked forth I noticed a crowd of our locals. As I got closer I heard people saying “kill it, beat it!” Out of curiosity I pushed myself through the crowd to check what “it” was. I was baffled by the sight. I saw an adult Python tied up with a rope and people dragging it to the roadside and beating it mercilessly. When I asked what the Python did to face such torture, they said “the beast ate a chicken from a local’s farm”. I couldn’t tolerate that it was almost dying with its tongue out and people still beating and dragging it. I told them to stop at once as the dead chicken is not going to come alive on killing the python. I rushed back to home to collect a blade and a sack. As I got back to the crowd, I freed the python from the rope and as I did so it looked so relieved and I could feel the same. It was the same October 10th when I rescued a reptile for the very first time. That feeling of saving the innocent lifted my soul up. After that I just couldn’t stop.

 

Manoj Gogoi

How does it help you financially?

It actually doesn’t. I manage with my minimal income to sustain my family and buying tools and supplies for the rescued.

Is the Government helping you with your cause?

Not until today. The government haven’t given any financial aid to me or my organisation i.e. Naturalist for Rehabilitation of Snakes and Birds. However, the Forest Department of Assam has recognized my works and I am glad about it.

What is your opinion on the ongoing deforestation and industrialization which is affecting the natural habitat of wild animals? 

I believe we need proper planning to conserve the endangered species and the environment as a whole. The Department of Tourism and Forest Department should provide proper guidance to masses and make them aware of all the consequences of industrialization and deforestation. Setting up big resorts in the vicinity of a Wildlife Sanctuary is definitely not sensible if we are planning to conserve the wild.

How do you think we can conserve endangered animal species?

First of all, it is necessary to gain some basic training on animal behavior and rescue techniques to be able to save them. Secondly, we need awareness and planning for this cause as well. Also, if we see any endangered animal, bird or reptile we must inform the forest department before taking any risk.

How do you communicate with animals and birds?

When I rescue them and bring them homeI can connect with them instantly and it gradually develops into a strong bond. I try to understand their behavior. I spend as much time as I can in nurturing them. I believe animals and birds can sense who could be a threat to them and in my case I pose no threat. Moreover, I can’t summon any random bird but the ones I have nurtured. Hence when I call them they respond to me. Even after getting released and growing up, they come back to me when I call for them.

What are your feelings when you are with them? 

In simple words, I feel like they are my children and I am their mother. I have to protect them with my life.

Share some interesting incidents on your venture with wildlife.

Every rescue story is interesting but there’s one that was scary. Once I had to rescue a Banded Krait, one of the deadliest snakes, which appeared near Bonhabi. I was at some work without my tools and cage. After rescuing I had to put the snake in a sack which had a tiny hole. As I rode back home, I was petrified in midway because the snake came out of the sack and started crawling up on my body towards my head. As I was figuring out how to tackle it, the snake appeared just in front of my forehead. I was shaken and I lost control of my bike. In no time I fell down on the roadside and stayed still until it crawled away to the nearby paddy field. The fear left me awake for a whole night.

What are your future plans on this cause?

Considering the unemployment scene of my locality, I have decided to start two training programmes for the youth. First one is to train them to be professional tourist guides. Second would be a Conservation Education programme so that our youth could save more endangered animals and protect the environment.

What will be your message to the young generation and public in general towards the necessity of conservation of environment?

I appeal to the younger generation and the common masses to do their bit in any possible way towards conservation. There are hundreds of ways to serve Mother Nature. One can create environmental awareness by writing and at the same time there are people who can help financially to create more awareness regarding conservation of the environment. It isn’t necessary to put physical effort and go rescue animals or birds but one must do whatever is in their hands to make the earth a better planet to live in.

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