Maheshwar Basumatary, an animal keeper with the International Fund for Animal Welfare-Wildlife Trust of India's Greater Manas Conservation Project, has been honoured with this year's Sanctuary Asia Wildlife Service Award.
Basumatary, fondly called 'Ontai'( meaning rock in Bodo), was awarded for his contribution towards conservation of wildlife in Greater Manas area in Lower Assam.
He will receive the award at an event in Mumbai today.
Basumatary, who earlier helped poachers in tracking animals, had surrendered before the authorities and has since played a key role in reviving Manas National Park, an official release said here today.
He also made a major contribution in the rehabilitation of clouded leopard cubs as part of the Greater Manas Conservation Project.
He assisted the Forest Department and worked with the Bodoland Forest Protection Force (a community-based organisation) in Manas, before joining IFAW-WTI in 2009.
He was also featured in the Nat Geo documentary on the project, titled 'Return of the Clouded Leopards'.
"Ontai represents the future of conservation in India. He is not merely a son of the soil, but a defender of the wild. I congratulate him, and IFAW-WTI for incubating such a strong pillar of support for wildlife of Greater Manas Landscape," Sanctuary Asia Editor Bittu Sahgal said.
"Ontai and many of our animal keepers come from difficult backgrounds and yet fiercely protect the natural heritage in their areas. Their zeal has not only helped us achieve a number of milestones, but also given us strength to keep striving for a secure natural heritage of India," WTI Executive Director and IFAW South Asia Regional Director Vivek Menon said.