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Here”s Why I”d Visit Kaziranga National Park Again And Again #PhotoNama

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By Aditi Thakker: 

Exploring wildlife sanctuaries in India has been an adventure that I have always wanted to embark on. I got the opportunity to experience this at Kaziranga National Park in Assam. I had eagerly waited for two things; interacting with the tribal community and watching Kaziranga’s Big Five; Swamp deer, Indian one horned rhinoceros, elephant, tiger and wild buffalo.

So here I was, at this World Heritage Site, which is home to the largest one horned rhino population and protected tiger population in the world. The elephant safaris are a 5 am adventure into the forest reserve where mahout told us, “Everybody wants to see a tiger, but I can assure you that you will freeze when you actually see one.” A fellow traveller, who was being a bit insensitive, or lets say childish kept on asking the mahout when she was going to see a tiger. After responding politely a few times, the mahout was compelled to give a response like, “Madam yea jungle hai, zoo nahin.

Kaziranga

The morning at Kaziranga was extremely cold and Lion King like, with the tune playing in my mind! The first animal most people see is either the rhino, or the Swamp deer. We spotted various rhinos, sometimes with their little ones. The mahouts would tell us what they thought the age of the baby rhino was. This was my first time seeing a rhino in the wild, and are they cute or what! A very peculiar kind of pink flower grows in the national park, in abundance. It’s very pretty and when I asked what it was called, the mahout said, “Rhino-potty flower”. It is a wild flower that grows only on rhino faeces. Such a beautiful thing coming out of absolute shit.

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We must have been extremely lucky because we saw not one but three tigers. And what more, one of them was going for the kill. A rare sight for the mahouts and guides too. And did I freeze for a second? Much longer I reckon. As much as I would have loved to have a photograph of the big cat, had I tried to get one I’d probably miss watching it altogether. Seeing the tiger made everyone happy! Mission accomplished for many. With about 109 tigers in the sanctuary this year, the forest rangers and mahouts say they have already seen many cubs that are yet to be counted. They believe the number of cubs is increasing, after tiger killing has been monitored and punished.

There are many tribal villages around the Kaziranga National Park. Local Assamese ladies engage in sewing shawls and Assamese saris employing traditional method. What they create is amazing, without the slightest use of electricity. Over the years, I have travelled to many places around the world and the one thing I have learnt about buying souvenirs is that if you can buy the product from the local producer itself, give the shops a miss. Its okay to pay a bit more, if you’re sure that the money is going to the one most deserving and in need. Every penny spent at the village, buying shawls, was totally worth it. Not only were the villagers very hospitable, but also eager to interact with us urban dwellers.

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We spent one afternoon on River Bhramaputra, watching the endangered Gangetic Dolphin. This species of dolphin are much smaller than the ones found in the oceans. The government has undertaken special measures to revive the dolphin population in the Bhramaputra, and continue to educate fishermen along the riverbed on sustainable fishing practices, as told to us by fishermen around Silghat. A marine biologist living at Diphlu River Lodge with us believes research suggests a slight increase in the Gangetic Dolphin population. This is quite a relief, since this species was on the verge of becoming extinct. Kudos to the local population and conservationists working on dolphin protection!

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The best part of this trip was that we go to see many animals with their little ones. That was in a way, a reassurance that as small as they may be, conservation and rehabilitation programs for animals are working and the next generation of these wonderful creatures is growing in India. Unfortunately, during the time we were at Kaziranga, a rhino fell prey to a poacher. The poacher was caught, but India lost yet another rhino to the extremely shameful and barbaric rhino-horn trade.

Kaziranga4

I generally don’t visit places more than once; I’d rather explore a new place. But I am definitely going back to Kaziranga, to the comforts of being close to nature and to a culture that remains largely unexplored.

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An ambassador and trained facilitator under Eco Femme (a social enterprise working towards menstrual health in south India), Sanjina is also an active member of the MHM Collective- India and Menstrual Health Alliance- India. She has conducted Menstrual Health sessions in multiple government schools adopted by Rotary District 3240 as part of their WinS project in rural Bengal. She has also delivered training of trainers on SRHR, gender, sexuality and Menstruation for Tomorrow’s Foundation, Vikramshila Education Resource Society, Nirdhan trust and Micro Finance, Tollygunj Women In Need, Paint It Red in Kolkata.

Now as an MH Fellow with YKA, she’s expanding her impressive scope of work further by launching a campaign to facilitate the process of ensuring better menstrual health and SRH services for women residing in correctional homes in West Bengal. The campaign will entail an independent study to take stalk of the present conditions of MHM in correctional homes across the state and use its findings to build public support and political will to take the necessary action.

Saurabh has been associated with YKA as a user and has consistently been writing on the issue MHM and its intersectionality with other issues in the society. Now as an MHM Fellow with YKA, he’s launched the Right to Period campaign, which aims to ensure proper execution of MHM guidelines in Delhi’s schools.

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Harshita is a psychologist and works to support people with mental health issues, particularly adolescents who are survivors of violence. Associated with the Azadi Foundation in UP, Harshita became an MHM Fellow with YKA, with the aim of promoting better menstrual health.

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A student from Delhi School of Social work, Vineet is a part of Project Sakhi Saheli, an initiative by the students of Delhi school of Social Work to create awareness on Menstrual Health and combat Period Poverty. Along with MHM Action Fellow Sabna, Vineet launched Menstratalk, a campaign that aims to put an end to period poverty and smash menstrual taboos in society.

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Find out more about her campaign here.

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A former Assistant Secretary with the Ministry of Women and Child Development in West Bengal for three months, Lakshmi Bhavya has been championing the cause of menstrual hygiene in her district. By associating herself with the Lalana Campaign, a holistic menstrual hygiene awareness campaign which is conducted by the Anahat NGO, Lakshmi has been slowly breaking taboos when it comes to periods and menstrual hygiene.

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