|Catching the tiger saviours young
TNN Aug 10, 2013
Around 50 children dressed in smart uniforms sing along with the two
teachers in this small but neatly done up classroom. This isn't a posh
kindergarten in the city but one in Bali, a remote island in the
Sunderbans, where schools are a luxury and survival a daily fight with
Therefore this pucca school with an impressive
attendance stands out. On closer look, each kid sports a badge on their
school shirt that reads 'Bagh Bachao' - save the tiger.
consciously or not, conservationist Belinda Wright is catching them
young. Sunderbans is one of the many areas in India where Wright works
for wildlife conservation. The school in Bali is a part of the
community outreach programme by Wright's Wildlife Protection Society of
India (WPSI), in collaboration with Bali Nature and Wildlife
"Involving the community is vital when it
comes to conservation. They have to be taken into confidence and they
are to be convinced," said Wright, who has been working in the
Sunderbans for over a decade.
WPSI has several community
programmes that have helped establish good ties with the 25,000
villagers of Bali. Like many other islands in the Sunderbans, Bali is
yet to be electrified and is plagued by poor health facilities. WPSI
holds health camps, helps villagers harvest rainwater and get solar
Through self-help groups - there are some 50 in all -
women are not only empowered but also contribute to the family income,
thereby reducing the pressure on forest resources. Thorough a
micro-credit scheme, these women can avail loans to run small
businesses like nurseries, making of bags and mats from palm leaves and
embroidery of cushion covers.
The organization co-ordinates with
the Sunderbans Development Board and forest department on awareness
campaigns and conservation. A WPSI-trained tiger rescue team is on call
whenever a tiger strays into human settlements.
lieutenant in the Sunderbans is a former poacher turned conservationist
Anil Mistry. As project officer, he oversees the work when Wright is in
Delhi or elsewhere.