It must be noted that the conflict in Assam between man and animal is comparatively lower than the past. The reason is that many people who lives close to hills and forests are now starting to cultivate rice and planting banana trees for the elephants and other animals so that they do not have to come down in search of food.
Ever thought about living your life with tigers, snakes and bears? It might sound really scary but for a family in Maharashtra, a family has been living with these animals for decades.
Dr. Prakash Amte and his wife Dr. Mandakini Amte were taking a walk in Dandarayana forests of Gadchiroli, Maharashtra, when they came across a group of tribal people returning from a hunt with a dead monkey. This was an incident from the early 70s in the lives of Amte family. The couple noticed that a baby monkey, still alive, was clinging to her dead parent, attempting to suckle her breast, which broke the hearts of Amte after the sight.
Dr. Prakash then questioned the tribals, “What will you do with the dead monkey?”.
Well, the purpose of hunting was to draw nourishment for the community, not leisure.
“What about the baby monkey?” he then asked.
“We will eat it, too.” they replied.
The incident changed the course of the lives for the Amte family forever after that.
At the time of the encounter, Dr. Prakash requested the tribals to give him the baby monkey in return for rice and clothes and the tribals reluctantly agreed.
The monkey arrived at the Amte home in the village of Hemalkasa and soon became a member of the household. Dr. Prakash named it ‘Babli’ after the tribal god worshipped by the Madias.
After that incident, Dr. Prakash strike a deal with the Madia tribe. He couldn’t question the hunting rights of the tribe as the practice was necessary for them to obtain food, but he decided to at least try and save the baby animals.
Dr. Prakash convinced the Madias not to kill babies of the animal kingdom, but to instead bring orphaned and injured animals to his home in return for food and clothes to which the tribals agreed.
One by one, jackals, leopards, jungle cats, common palm civets, rhesus macaques, sloth bears, giant squirrels, rat-tail langurs, four-horned antelopes, black buck antelopes, rat snakes, Indian pythons, crocodiles, monitor lizards, banded kraits, peacocks, a spotted deer, porcupines, and neelgai found their home at Animal Ark, a living space created by Dr Prakash Amte for these wild lives.
It was a scene worth watching, as wild animals never lived in such close contact with humans. The issue became a matter of concern for the government. Objections were also raised against the breeding of wild animals in village settings. Regulations demanded that the wild animals be caged. Aniket Amte, the doctor couple’s son who had a rather Jungle-book style childhood, describes how he preferred the way things were before the cages were erected.
Aniket has also expressed to the media before, “I remember how we, the children of the village, and the animals would walk together to the river for a bath. We grew up with no fear of animals.”
Today, there are over 100 animals in the ark. The number of animals regularly brought to the Amte home has drastically reduced because the Madias started hunting less over the times.
Dr. Prakash also happens to be the son of Baba Amte, one of the greatest social reformers that our country has seen. While his father started Lok Biradari Prakalp and brought change to the lives of many leprosy patients in Anandwan, Dr. Prakash and Dr. Mandakini decided to move to Hemalkasa to continue the tradition of working for social reform.
Hemalkasa village in Maharashtra, cut off from the rest of the world with no roads or electricity, has long been home to the tribal community of Madia-Gond that lived in abject poverty.
The tribes of this area knew no techniques of agriculture and were totally dependent on the forest for their food. The tribes wore no clothes, suffered from malnutrition and had no access to medical care. Dr. Prakash and Dr. Mandakini set up a hospital where they treated tribal people for free.
They also started teaching the children from the community under a tree. Furthermore, they worked towards solving day-to-day problems of the villagers. The benefits of their work were reaped in the long run. Today the very children who studied under trees have become doctors, teachers, and engineers. The hospital is now equipped with modern facilities. The local school has a proper building and teaches over 400 tribal children. The tribal people have picked up agriculture and consequentially, they now hunt less.
Dr. Prakash and Dr. Mandakini were also awarded the Ramon Magsasay Award in 2008 for their work in Gadchiroli. With great simplicity and saint-like devotion, the Doctor couples continue their work in this remote village.
It must be understood that the through this initiative and incredible work, Amte family has made one thing very clear that the conflict of Man and Animals is not something that can be controlled by caging or killing the animals. Amte family over the decades have proved that animals can live happily and very playfully with the humans and all kinds of animals around them. Animal Ark is that place in India, where different species lives together in harmony along with humans without any problem.
In Assam too, the conflict between man and animal is a very common issue. Many a times, reports of animals destroying houses and attacking humans do rounds in the news channels. Here, the people need to understand that the conflict between man and elephant is not something that can be controlled by the government.
However, it must be noted that the conflict in Assam between man and animal is comparatively lower than the past. The reason is that many people who lives close to hills and forests are now starting to cultivate rice and planting banana trees for the elephants and other animals so that they do not have to come down in search of food.
This is indeed a very good initiative and more people must come forward and contribute in making the earth a better place for all the living beings.