The Braveheart

Nature never betrays the heart that loves her sincerely… Hums the man as he plays the flute in the serene ambience of the Kaziranga National Park. And he should know better, having spent 18 years of his life in the lap of Mother Nature in Kaziranga.

Ranger Dharanidhar BodoIn fact, his life itself testifies the veracity of his favourite line from Wordsworth. He is none other than Ranger Dharanidhar Bodo, whose name is almost synonymous with Kaziranga, which he passionately loves and zealously protects.

Bodo’s association with Kaziranga dates back to the late 1980s. A bond that is getting stronger and stronger with the passage of time. His knowledge and understanding of the Park and its wildlife is phenomenal, something that explains his continuous stint in Kaziranga. It would be no exaggeration to say that he knows Kaziranga like his own backyard.

Bodo, now 48, joined the Kaziranga National Park on May 11, 1987, as a Ranger and is still serving the Park in that capacity, which makes him among the longest-serving officers in the Park. Renowned for his sincerity, commitment, courage and zeal, Bodo has had a distinguished career, rendering yeoman’s service to Kaziranga and earning acclaims from the world over.

“It is impossible to describe in words what Kaziranga means to me. I cannot imagine my life without Kaziranga, which has taught me the very meaning of life, and to love and respect life in all its manifestations. Working in this magnificent forest for so long has been a fulfilling experience,” says Bodo. “Besides, it has also given me name, fame and recognition, although good work in itself is a reward,” he adds modestly.

Much admired for his indomitable spirit and daredevilry, instances galore when Bodo defied grave risks to his life in his bid to secure safety and security to the wildlife and flora. “The animals and the trees are my life and I cannot bear any damage happening to them in my presence. Very few people get the chance to take care of Mother Nature, and I feel privileged in being able to do so,” he says.

Today, how does he feel as the Park celebrates its glorious hundredth year? “It is definitely a momentous occasion in the annals of conservation. At the same time, it gives me immense pleasure to look back in retrospection and realize that I too, like many other dedicated souls, have contributed my mite towards the well-being of the Park and its denizens,” Bodo says.

Bodo feels that the dedication and sincerity of the Forest staff and officials apart, a major driving force behind the successful conservation efforts in Kaziranga has been the support and involvement of the local people. “From my own experience, I can say that the past one-and-a-half decade has seen the people coming forward to further the conservation process. The growing awareness among the people over the years about the need to protect this Eden, which is also World Heritage Site, has boosted the morale of the Forest staff. The helping hand offered by the local people, especially during the times of flood every year is indeed commendable,” Bodo says. “A number of poachers surrendered in the early 1990s and pledged their support to conservation – something that has served us in good stead, as is evident from the negligible level of poaching,” he adds.

While the success story of Kaziranga elates Bodo, he is deeply pained by the destructions perpetrated by mankind on many of the State’s forests and wildlife. “Despite all the advancements in science and technology, can science recreate a species that has been lost forever,” asks Bodo, and adds, “we are fortunate in being endowed with an unparalleled bounty of nature. But the sad thing is that we do not seem to value their worth. Besides, by terminating forests we are only clearing the ground for our own extinction,” he says.

Bodo’s immense contribution towards the cause of conservation has been recognized at all levels – local, national and international. A number of awards and accolades have so far come his way during his illustrious career, and he had had the opportunity of representing the State and the country in the international fora a number of times. Recipient of the Baghsevak Award of Tiger Link in 1996, he was honoured with the Fred M Packard International Award the next year. He was also chosen for the prestigious Pacific Asia Travel Association (PATA) Award in 2003. He represented the country in the third World Congress of Rangers in the Kruger National Park in South Africa in 2000, and then again in the fourth Congress at Durban in Australia in 2003. “In Australia, I had the honour of formally inaugurating the Congress, which I did by playing on the flute much to the delight of the gathering,” he says. The same year he attended the World National Park Congress. In 2000 he participated at a rhino translocation camp in Nepal.

Bodo’s love for nature goes back to his childhood days when he used to graze cows in and around forests. “A deep sense of fascination and wonder for nature got ingrained to my psyche since childhood, as I lived close to the natural world,” he reminisces and adds that the job at Kaziranga provided him with the opportunity to realise his boyhood dream serving nature.

Sivasish THAKUR on The Assam Tribune