The birth of 32 pythons over a three-day hatching spell was a sight wildlife staff and researchers at the Laokhowa-Burhachapori wildlife sanctuary in Nagaon district would never forget.
But this instance of perfect conservation dynamics was no coincidence; it was the culmination of years of efforts to educate people, especially those residing in villages on the fringes of protected areas, about the need to protect and conserve wildlife.
The clock started ticking on June 16, when a 15-foot female python laid 38 eggs in the backyard of primary schoolteacher Kartik Sarkar’s house in Haribhanga Beelpar village on the fringe of Laokhowa wildlife sanctuary. Sarkar immediately informed the forest staff of the Gorajan range of the sanctuary.
The forest staff and a research team belonging to the Laokhowa Burhachapori Wildlife Conservation Society, an NGO, received total cooperation from the villagers as they began the process of relocating the python and her eggs. While the mother was released into the wild in Burhachapori wildlife sanctuary, the eggs were kept in a controlled environment in the sanctuary and monitored continuously by the research team.
The eggs started hatching three days ago. Today, 32 newborn pythons were released in a suitable habitat inside the sanctuary.
“Since pythons do not incubate their eggs, we were confident most of the eggs would eventually hatch provided these were closely monitored and protected from their natural predators. Usually, most eggs end up being eaten by monitor lizards, civet cats and mongoose, among others,” said Prasanta Bordoloi who was part of the research team along with Samarjit Ojah.
Though the Burmese rock python is widely found in the Northeast, the success of this effort was proof that awareness is the key to wildlife conservation.
“Such dynamics are very rare. The rescue of the python and the successful hatching of such a large number of eggs and their release in the natural habitat need to be cheered. Laokhowa and Burhachapori wildlife sanctuaries are ideal for undertaking such research and documentation. The Nagaon wildlife division and the society thank the fringe villagers for informing us about the snake and its eggs and for their active cooperation in the rescue operation,” said P. Sivakumar, divisional forest officer of the Nagaon wildlife division, which administers the Laokhowa and Burhachapori wildlife sanctuaries.
“The role played by the villagers in informing the forest staff is commendable. This was possible only because of increased awareness,” said Firoz Ahmed, a wildlife biologist with Aaranyak.
“Such positive cooperation from fringe village residents are critical for wildlife conservation in Assam,” Sivakumar added.
Sometime back, based on information provided by the villagers, a binturong, a rare and critically endangered species, was rescued from a village on the fringe of Laokhowa wildlife sanctuary. It was treated for minor injuries at the Centre for Wildlife Rehabilitation and Conservation, Kaziranga, and later released back in the wild.
Laokhowa wildlife sanctuary, with an area of 70.1 square km, is situated on the south bank of the Brahmaputra. It was declared a reserve forest in 1907 and upgraded to a wildlife sanctuary in 1979. Burachapori wildlife sanctuary is just north of Laokhowa. It was declared a reserve forest in 1974 and a wildlife sanctuary in 1995 and is spread over 44.06 square km. Both sanctuaries are part of the Kaziranga-Orang riverine landscape, which has been identified as a major gateway for straying animals within the protected areas of central Assam.