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Tezpur man on a mission to rescue endangered wildlife
Shambhu Boro

Saurav Barkataki diplaying a cobra, which he rescued recently.
 TEZPUR, May 15 - Saurav Barkataki, a young dedicated photo journalist of Tezpur town, is now into a unique vocation of rescuing endangered wildlife.

At a time when poaching of wildlife has become a matter of serious concern, Saurav Barkataki’s mission in life is to protect these animals. Rhino poaching, deer hunting and killing of tigers are not new in the State. But the people who are protecting wildlife, hardly get any coverage.

Barkataki has till date since 2000 saved more than 500 snakes including the Gecko snake, cobra and python. Saving wild animals and letting them free in the jungles is his hobby. In an exclusive interview with this reporter regarding as to when and why he started saving snakes, he candidly revealed that the year 2000 was a turning point in his life when he had to stop a person from killing a cobra near his residence. He then rescued the cobra and with the help of a veterinary doctor treated it and later released it in the nearby Bhumuraguri Forest. “It was my beginning in this line and slowly it turned into a passion. We all fear snakes as they are venomous. But that scene melted my heart and I felt I had to do something to save that snake. And from that particular day, I decided to make it a mission to protect snakes and leave them free in the forests.” When asked whether he doesn’t feel any fear while catching poisonous snakes, with a smiling face he replied that he doesn’t fear snakes at all. “Whenever I go to catch a snake, I always remember the incident when I saw that person trying to kill the snake. This inspires me and I tell myself that I have to save the snake,” he said.

If he finds an injured snake, he cures it and then leaves it in the forests in the presence of the forest officials. “I recall one such incident when I cleaned a cobra which had fallen into a bitumen drum in a PWD warehouse. Any other person would have run away in fear, but I cleaned the snake and released it in the nearby forest after it was fully cured,” he mentioned.

Barkataki not only saves snakes, till date he has also rescued many wild birds and animals also. On June 30, 2010 he saved two drowning deer from the river Brahmaputra. “I came to know that four deer were being carried away in the turbulent Brahmaputra to Kaziranga. Without wasting a single second, I launched a rescue mission on a country boat and saved two deer. The deer were then safely handed over to the Forest department,” he proudly says adding that people in the nearby areas call him whenever wild elephants attack their villages. “In one such incident, some wild elephants attacked a nearby village. I was called by the forest officials to help them to drive away the elephants. It was a well-accomplished mission,” he said.

Terming the dedicated wildlife lover as a role model, Conservator, Northern Assam, Sib Kumar said that Saurav Barkataki has become a big supporting hand for the Wildlife Chapter of the Forest department in Sonitpur, who arrives to rescue the endangered wild animal earlier than the man from the Forest Department. “Saurav Barkataki – a dedicated and honest wildlife lover is a driving force for us, who not only rescues wildlife but also directly or indirectly tries to create an opinion towards the conservation of wildlife. We have already requested the Government to appoint him as an honorary wildlife activist to give adequate recognition to his unmatched service and contribution towards the Forest Department.” He added that as the number of rescued wildlife is growing, a rescue centre is proposed to be set up in Patachali area near Nameri National Park for which a committee has been formed comprising a good number dedicated Forest officials.

Saurav, who recently released a sick adjutant stork (hargila) after a couple of months of treatment at his house, has received many awards from the State Government. His two member family with his wife Krishna Kalita Barkataki at Kocharigaon, JN Road here has become a mini zoo nowadays as one can easily watch a python or a cobra in his house.

For his work he was awarded in 2010 at the 56th Wildlife Protection Week by the then Forest Minister Rockybul Husain. The Sonitpur district administration conferred upon him the ‘Wildlife Person Award’ in 2014. He was also awarded by the All Assam Students’ Union for his work.

Barkataki who has been constantly fighting against the killing of wildlife is at present giving more priority to saving snakes as he wants to create a record by catching the same.

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