Guwahati: Pancharatna reserve forest in Goalpara district of western Assam deserves protection and preservation, raising such voices a prominent bio-diversity conservation group urged the State government in Dispur to declare it a wildlife sanctuary. Nature’s Beckon in its proposal argues that Pancharatna forest is recognized as a unique and safe place for Asiatic wild elephants to give birth to calves.
The conservation group cited that wild elephants don’t give birth in all forests. Rather they make choices while bringing their new ones as per their hereditary tradition, added the non-government group quoting an environmentalist Kripa Lochan Das, who has been studying the habitat, behaviour and natural movements of elephants for more than a decade now. Das asserted that because of the phenomena. Pancharatna is regarded as a sacred forest.
“The proposed Pancharatna Wildlife Sanctuary, covering an area of around 976 hectares, is adjacent to Garo hills of western Meghalaya that enables the free movement of wild elephants between the two States through the patch,” said Soumyadeep Datta, the director of Nature’s Beckon, who has taken the initiative to approach State chief minister Dr Himanta Biswa Sarma with the proposal inclusive of another incredibly rich Ajagar forest to declare as a wildlife sanctuary.
Asiatic elephants are recognized as a Schedule one species and duly safeguarded under the Wildlife Protection Act 1972. Moreover, elephants are largely adored as the symbol of Lord Ganesh (Ganapati or Vinayaka), one of the most worshipped deities in the Hindu pantheon. Admired son of Devi Parvati, Ganesh Prabhu is revered as the remover of all obstacles and a patron to arts and wisdom. Assam gives shelter to around 6,000 Asiatic elephants (the country as a whole to nearly 30,000).
Apart from Asiatic elephants, over 35 species of mammals like leopard, slow loris, hog deer, barking deer, sambar, sloth bear, binturong, Indian porcupine, pangolin, crab eating mongoose, etc along with a wide range of wild birds (around 168 species in Pancharatna and 196 species in Ajagar) find both the reserve forests as their ideal habitats.
The proposed Ajagar Wildlife Sanctuary constitutes an approximate forest area of 4240 hectares. As both the forest areas harbour a very rich biodiversity of rare flora and fauna, those need immediate protection and conservation under the respective laws. Hence, the group appealed to the government to constitute two different wildlife sanctuaries covering both the forests in Goalpara district on the southern bank of Brahmaputra.
Goalpara remained an important locality under the historic Kamrupa empire and thus an integral part of Indian civilization for thousands of years. Various ancient temples, Buddhist shrines, stone edicts, gold coins and other archaeological treasures found in this locality proudly depict its significance. Shri Surjya Pahar of Goalpara comprises India’s oldest stone carved temple dedicated to Lord Ganesh,” added Datta.
An ancient Buddha Stupa and many stone engraved temple complexes also epitomize the rich heritage of Goalpara, which is also exceptionally rich as a primary habitat for wildlife and natural forests. But today the wildlife and forests of Goalpara face abject inattention from most of the State governments even after seventy years of India’s independence. With decades of political negligence, a large part of forest lands is being encroached, where illegal timber trades, poaching of wildlife and other anti-social activities have grown substantially.
Once the forests of Goalpara used to give shelter to a dense population of Gaur (wild bison), but the unabated killing of the animal for its meat, precisely by the migrated people from erstwhile East Pakistan, led to the extinct of the beautiful species of wildlife. Even a sizable number of Hoolock Gibbons were found in Goalpara forests, but today the entire population of the rare ape species has been completely annihilated.
A formal proposal was handed over to State environment and forests minister Parimal Suklabaidya on 30 June which was followed by a pragmatic interaction with the CM’s political secretary Jayanta Malla Barua over the matter. If materialized, Assam will add two more preserves to the existing 19 wildlife sanctuaries and seven national parks (namely Kaziranga, Manas, Orang, Dibru-Saikhowa, Nameri, Raimona and Dehing Patkai).