WWF-India strengthens patrolling of Assam’s wilderness during winter

Health camps in Manas NP and Pobitora WLS for frontline forest staff & patrol elephants

A haven for wildlife
Assam state is home to diverse habitats that harbor a rich variety of wildlife, but the same urgently need enhanced protection. The conservation issues here are being addressed by WWF-India through landscapes approach under the North Bank Landscape (NBL) and Kaziranga-Karbi Anglong Landscape (KKL) programmes, in partnership with the Forest Department, Government of Assam and various NGOs.

It is crucial that forest staff & patrol elephants have regular health check ups. © Amit Sharma/WWF-India

Within the NBL lies Manas National Park, a UNESCO Natural World Heritage site, while Pobitora Wildlife Sanctuary is one of the important rhino bearing Protected Areas of Assam. Manas National Park is located on the international border with Bhutan, along the foothills of the Himalayas. Pobitora Wildlife Sanctuary on the other hand, lies about 50 km to the east of Guwahati.

Reasons to be fit
According to Amit Sharma, Coordinator, Rhino Conservation, WWF-India, “One of the many health hazards the forest staff and patrol elephants working to protect forest areas face, in this landscape, is that of extreme weather. It is crucial that the forest staff and patrol elephants have their health check ups in the post monsoon period as there is a high incidence of seasonal diseases like malaria, diarrhea.” He adds “Both the forest staff as well as their patrol elephants need to be fit to protect the wilderness in winter.” Keeping this in view, three health camps- one each for forest staff and elephants working under Basbari Range were organized by WWF-India in Manas National Park on 13th December, 2009 and one for the frontline field staff of Pobitora Wildlife Sanctuary on 17th January, 2010.

The Manas health camps were organized jointly by the NBL team of WWF-India, ATREE (UNESCO-WHS program) and Assam Forest Department in collaboration with the Dept. of Health and Family Welfare, Barpeta district, Indian Medical Association (IMA), Barpeta Road, College of Veterinary Sciences (CVSc), Khanapara and Blue Cross Society, Guwahati.

An elephant being treated at the Manas health camp. © Amit Sharma/ WWF-India

According to Debo Kumar Dutta, Senior Project Officer, NBL, “The doctors also went to the interior camps of the range to ensure maximum coverage. The needy were provided with appropriate medicines along with advice for care and precautions.” He said “The doctors talked about taking greater precautions on an emergency basis as the high Annual Parasite Levels detected may lead to an outbreak of malaria in an epidemic form in the area. The frontline staffs were advised to take precautions to prevent malaria. The patrol elephants were administered with drugs whereever required. Minerals and food supplements were provided to the mahouts to be administered by them as advised by the doctors.” “Plans are in place to cover the staff and patrol elephants of the remaining two ranges of Manas National Park,” he adds.

The Pobitora health camp was conducted under the supervision of Dr. Tonmoy Das and was led by Dr. Ramananda Das with the assistance of 4 experienced doctors and 10 paramedical staff from the hospital. About 100 people attended the camp. In addition to general health check-ups, tests were conducted to detect sugar level and malaria; ECG was also done on some patients. Free medical treatment was provided to those with critical illness. It was organised with support of International Hospitals, Guwahati in association with the Assam Forest Department and Pobitora Conservation Society.

These health camps will go a long way in securing the lives of Assam’s wildlife and their protectors – the forest staff.

From WWF

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