Forest officer turns poet to protect wildlife

Buxa (WB): For three decades he has been guarding the rich forests of north Bengal against poachers with a gun in one hand and a pen in another.

Soon after realising that strict vigilance alone cannot protect wildlife and natural resources, Buxa Tiger Reserve`s Range Officer Pradeep Kumar Sarkar started penning poetries to seek the help of local tribes in conserving biodiversity.

Besides getting it published in local magazines and forest department journals, the 50-year-old officer never misses to recite the verses at local functions and during his meetings with tribal communities here in Jalpaiguri district.

Written in Bengali and tribal languages like Sadri, all the poems have a common theme of how the life of human beings is intertwined with natural surroundings and the ecological system.

The forest officer proudly recalls that an old tribal school teacher once had tears in his eyes after hearing his recitation.

"He told me I had summed up their life in a few lines," Sarkar says proudly. The tiger reserve is not only home to the national animal and the Asian elephant but is also known for its rich flora and fauna.

Besides encroachment in and around the forest, factors like poaching of wildlife, smuggling of timber and uncontrolled cattle grazing pose a threat to the reserve.

"The tribes worship nature as they practice animism. But some of them get involved in smuggling and poaching. My job is just to remind them of their culture which some of them have forgotten," Sarkar told PTI.

"I have been living in the midst of forests all these years and so I understand not only nature but also the lives of these tribal communities who are dependent directly or indirectly on forest resources or tourism," he says.

Full of lyrical effects, another of his Bengali poem evokes Hindu philosophy to argue how the forests do not belong an individual but to the whole society.

While expressing his pain on seeing man-animal conflict around him, the poem urges everyone to come together and save nature for their own interest.

Writing small poetries since his school days, the officer never went to college. "To communicate with the local communities and understand nature, we don`t need degrees," he says.

Near his office at Santalbari, in the core area of the tiger reserve where from tourists trek to go to Buxa fort, he has written this on a board: "For the development of civilisation, science and technology is not enough. We also need nature".