Demand for constituting two wildlife sanctuaries in Goalpara raised

Assam, July 14: Nature’s Beckon, a prominent bio-diversity conservation group of northeast India proposes Assam government declare two incredibly rich forests in the Goalpara district, bordering Meghalaya and also Bangladesh as wildlife sanctuaries as both Ajagar and Pancharatna forests constitute the primary habitat for wild elephants in the region.

Apart from Asiatic elephants, over 35 species of mammals like a leopard, slow loris, hog deer, barking deer, sambar, sloth bear, binturong, Indian porcupine, pangolin, crab-eating mongoose, etc find both the reserve forests as their ideal habitats. A wide range of wild birds (around 196 species in Ajagar forest and 168 species in Pancharatna forest) are found there.

As both the forest areas harbour very rich biodiversity of rare flora and fauna, those need immediate protection and conservation under the respective laws. Hence, the non-government groups lately appealed to the government to constitute two different wildlife sanctuaries covering both the forest reserves in the Goalpara district of western Assam.

The proposed Ajagar Wildlife Sanctuary constitutes an approximate forest area of 4240 hectares and it provides shelter to a very large resident population of priced Asiatic elephants, said Soumyadeep Datta, the director of Nature’s Beckon, in the proposal addressing State chief minister Dr Himanta Biswa Sarma. On the other hand, the proposed Pancharatna WS constitutes an area of around 976 hectares which is adjacent to the Garo hills of western Meghalaya that enables the free movement of wild elephants between the two States through the patch.

Moreover, the Pancharatna forest is recognized as a unique and safe place for elephants to give birth to their calves. Kripa Lochan Das, an environmentalist working with the 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, said Das, who has been studying the habitat, behaviour and natural movements of Asiatic elephants for more than a decade now.

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He added, because of it, the Pancharatna forest is regarded as a sacred one by the locals. Speaking to this writer, Datta explained that Goalpara remained an important area under the 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 that comprises India’s oldest stone the carved temple dedicated to Lord Ganesh, an ancient Buddha Stupa, and many stones engraved temple complexes epitomize the rich heritage of Goalpara, which is also exceptionally rich as a primary habitat for wildlife and natural forests,” said Datta.

But today the wildlife and forests of Goalpara face abject inattention from most of the governments in Dispur 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 in the recent past.

Once the forests of Goalpara gave shelter to a dense population of Gaur (wild bison), but unabated the killing of the animal for its meat, precisely by the migrated people from erstwhile East Pakistan led to 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 discussion with the CM’s political secretary Jayanta Malla Barua over the matter. If materialized, Datta revealed, Assam will add two more preserves to the existing 19 wildlife sanctuaries and 7 National Parks.