Guwahati, Oct 7: Noted conservation leader from Assam, Dr Purnima Devi Barman has been conferred The World Female Ranger Award 2022 by international NGO, How Many Elephants.
The pioneering World Female Ranger Award gives international recognition to a female wildlife ranger who has shown exemplary service and commitment to conservation.
Purnima Devi Barman is a conservationist and biologist who has been successful in changing people’s perceptions of the Greater Adjutant Stork (Hargila in local parlance in Assam). Often referred to as a disease-carrying pest, an ugly, filthy bird or a bad omen, Purnima and her ‘Hargila Army’ have helped turn this bird into a cultural icon and part of folklore in Assam, India.
Purnima built the Hargila Army with a small beginning. It is now a team of over 10,000 women working together to protect the critically endangered Greater Adjutant Stork. They keep a strict vigil on the nests as habitat loss, poaching and poisoning are all significant threats to the bird.
Purnima also built the world’s first artificial breeding platform where chicks can hatch safely to address the birds’ shrinking habitat problem. In addition, Purnima believes she has fostered a pride in the rare stork by associating positive festivities with the bird. “Today many women join because it is a matter of prestige to be a part of the Hargila Army”, says Purnima.
Founder of How Many Elephants, Holly Budge, launched the World Female Ranger Award last year in conjunction with her pioneering initiative, World Female Ranger Week (June 23-30th). Holly and her team have identified over 5500 female rangers around the world. Holly says, “We are delighted to give recognition to Purnima through this award, plus a grant kindly sponsored by the Globe Foundation. She is an inspirational woman making tangible real-world impact; Protecting wildlife, uplifting communities and empowering women.”
"I’m humbled, honoured, and excited to be receiving the World Female Ranger Award 2022. I convey my humble gratitude for recognizing the need for protecting endangered Assam's Hargila and similar species. My acceptance of this award and honour would not be complete without acknowledging the ground breaking work by courageous women rangers and eco-guards from all over the world. Bringing women to the forefront in conservation movements can create miracles as our Hargila Army has done. I hope we can work together towards more gender equity along with environmental sustainability. There are many challenges still and we are determined to face them and win through"
Purnima Devi Barman, the founder of the Hargila Army, is a biologist working with NGO, Aranyak (www.aaranyak.org). She interrupted her PhD studies to combat the sudden decline of storks in her local area. Local villagers were primarily responsible for this decline, chopping down the trees on which the baby storks nested. Beyond introducing effective monitoring and management of these nests, Purnima has also worked to change the perception of storks from one of a nuisance to a source of local and national pride.