GUWAHATI: In the Northeast, where football has long been woven into the cultural fabric, the sport’s popularity is being leveraged for a larger purpose – the conservation of the one-horned Indian rhino.
Murkata Ankuran Youth Club of Morigaon district and Aaranyak, a biodiversity organisation, organised a two-day football event to spread the message of rhino conservation. The tournament saw participation from 20 local football clubs, not just for the love of the game, but to emphasise the need for rhino conservation in the Pobitora Wildlife Sanctuary. The event also spotlighted the potential of rhino-centric eco-tourism, advocating for its benefits to local entrepreneurs.
Dr. Bibhab Kumar Talukdar, Secretary General and CEO of Aaranyak and a renowned rhino conservation expert, expressed gratitude to the Pobitora WLS frontline staff and Morigaon police for their relentless efforts against rhino hunting syndicates.
During the tournament’s inauguration ceremony, Jayanta Kumar Pathak, Senior Conservationist of Aaranyak, highlighted the indispensable role of local communities in successful rhino conservation. He commended their altruistic contributions and underscored the boundless potential of responsible eco-tourism, urging the youth to take the helm.
Dipak Bhattacharjya, Head of Operation of the organisation, marked the event’s commencement by cutting the ribbon. Throughout the event, various educational materials were showcased to raise awareness on rhino conservation, driven by the active participation of team members Pranjal Deka and Ujjal Bayon.
The primary aim of the tournament was to galvanize community support for the protection of the rhinos in Assam’s Pobitora Wildlife Sanctuary. This sanctuary is globally renowned for having the highest rhino density on Earth, with over 100 rhinos coexisting in a mere 16 square kilometre core area. Pobitora’s unique position, nestled amidst populous human settlements, adds layers of complexity to its conservation efforts.
Aaranyak, with its 34 years of unwavering commitment to conservation, highlighted the tremendous community support around Pobitora, attributing the sanctuary’s zero rhino poaching incidents in over eight years to this communal involvement.