Case Study: Purnima Devi Barman, Assam
A guardian for the Greater Adjutant Stork in Assam, Purnima Devi Barman have campaigned relentlessly for the conservation of this rare species, influenced public opinion and boosted the chances of their survival. As a child growing up near the Palababari and Deepor Beel wetlands, Ms. Barman wondered about these birds and later as an adult, she returned to Deepor Beel with Aaranyak, an NGO working on biodiversity conservation and wildlife. A deep connect with the land and people, and her steely determination to protect this scavenging bird that is an important link in the food web, saw her receive a Conservation Leadership Award in 2009. The training programme that ensued in China was to be a turning point in Ms. Barman’s life and the lives of hundreds of Greater Adjutant Storks that got a lease of life. Realising that conserving the ‘hargila’ is impossible without the cooperation of local folk who own the trees where it builds its nest; she along with other members of Aaranyak befriended each tree-owner family, who now actively participate in the rescue and rehabilitation of baby storks that fall from their nesting trees. The Dadara community is today an exemplary role model for community conservation and she has deservedly received the sobriquet of ‘hargila baideu’ or Stork Sister.
From 28 nests in 12 trees in Dadara in 2006 to 171 nests in 55 trees in 2014, Ms. Barman’s story and that of the storks is so much more than just a local legend.