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How Purnima Devi Barman saved adjutant stork from extinction?

Who is Purnima Devi Barman, honoured with U.N.’s highest environmental award

Dr. Purnima Devi Barman, an Indian wildlife biologist, has been awarded this year’s Champions of the Earth award by the United Nations. Barman, a native of Assam, won the 2022 Champions of the Earth award in the Business Vision category from the United Nations Environment Program (UNEP).

Barman leads the women’s ‘Hargila Army’, which works to protect the endangered great helper stork. Today the organization has about ten thousand members. Some focus on livelihood activities for local women.

“Healthy and functional ecosystems are critical to prevent the climate emergency and biodiversity loss from causing irreversible damage to our planet. This year’s Champions of the Earth give us hope that our relationship with nature can be mended,” Inger Andersen, Executive Director of UNEP said.

“This year’s champions demonstrate how reviving ecosystems and supporting nature’s remarkable regenerative capacity is everyone’s job: governments, the private sector, scientists, communities, NGOs and individuals.”

Source: Facebook

“Dr Barman’s work has shown that human-wildlife conflict can be resolved to the benefit of all. By highlighting the damaging impact that wetland loss has had on species that feed and breed in them, reminds us of the importance of protecting and restoring ecosystems”.

According to information on the UNEP website, in order to protect the stork, Dr. Barman knew she had to change the perception of the bird, known locally as “hargila” in Assamese (meaning “bone eater”), and mobilized a group of women from the village to help. hers.

Today, the “Hargila Army” consists of more than 10,000 women. They protect nesting sites, rehabilitate injured storks that have fallen from their nests, and organize “baby showers” to celebrate the arrival of newborn chicks. The greater helper stork regularly appears in folk songs, poems, festivals, and plays.

Who is Purnima Devi Barman

Purnima Devi Barman is a wildlife biologist from Assam, India. She is known for her conservation work with the greater helper stork (Leptoptilos dubius), known locally as Hargila. She is the founder of the Hargila Army, a women’s conservation initiative. Barman attended Gauhati University in Assam, where she obtained her Master’s Degree in Zoology, with a specialization in Ecology and Wildlife Biology.

Purnima Devi Barman, a biologist from Kamrup, Assam, is busy conserving the bird, the endangered greater helper stork. The bird is found mainly in Cambodia and India. In India, the birds are found in Assam and Bihar. Assam has the largest breeding colony.

Source: Facebook.

India’s Purnima Devi Barman, an Assam-based wildlife biologist, At the age of five, Barman was sent to live with her grandmother on the banks of the Brahmaputra River in the Indian state of Assam. Separated from her parents and siblings, the girl became heartbroken. To distract her from her, Barman’s grandmother, a farmer, began taking her to the nearby rice paddies and wetlands to teach her about the birds there.

In 2007, she began her PhD research, but delayed completing it until 2019 to focus on community conservation education in villages in rural Assam.

Barman led a series of conservation campaigns that integrated the culture and traditions of the local villagers. These included the presentation of conservation messages during religious functions, cooking contests, street plays and community dances.

Restoring ecosystems

For Barman, safeguarding the helper stork means protecting and restoring their habitats. The Hargila Army has helped communities plant 45,000 saplings near stork nesting trees and wetland areas in the hope that they will support future stork populations. There are plans to plant another 60,000 saplings next year. The women also carry out clean-up campaigns on river banks and in wetlands to remove plastic from the water and reduce pollution.

Source: Facebook/Purnima Devi Barman

“Purnima Devi Barman’s pioneering conservation work has empowered thousands of women, creating entrepreneurs and improving livelihoods, while saving the great helper stork from the brink of extinction,” said Inger Andersen, Executive Director of the UNEP. “Dr. Barman’s work has shown that human-wildlife conflict can be resolved to the benefit of all. By highlighting the damaging impact that the loss of wetlands has had on the species that feed and breed in them, she reminds us of the importance of protecting and restoring ecosystems.”

Barman says one of her greatest rewards has been the sense of pride she has instilled in the Hargila Army and she hopes her success will inspire the next generation of conservationists to pursue their dreams. “Being a woman working in conservation in a male-dominated society is challenging, but the Hargila Army has shown how women can make a difference,” she said.

‘Hargila’s Army’

To protect the stork, Barman knew he had to change the perception of the bird, known locally as “hargila” in Assamese (meaning “bone-eater”) and mobilized a group of village women to help her.

Today, the “Hargila Army” consists of more than 10,000 women. They protect nesting sites, rehabilitate injured storks that have fallen from their nests, and organize “baby showers” ​​to celebrate the arrival of newborn chicks. The greater helper stork regularly appears in folk songs, poems, festivals, and plays.

Barman has also helped provide the women with looms and thread so they can create and sell textiles decorated with hargila motifs. This venture not only raises awareness about the bird, but also contributes to the financial independence of the women, boosting their livelihoods and instilling pride and ownership in their work to save the stork.

Since Barman started his conservation programme, the number of nests in Dadara, Pachariya and Singimari villages in Kamrup district has increased from 28 to more than 250, making it the largest helper stork breeding colony. of the world.

In 2017, Barman began building tall bamboo nesting platforms for endangered birds to hatch their eggs. Her efforts paid off a couple of years later when the first larger helper stork chicks hatched on these experimental platforms.

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