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| Last Updated:: 29/08/2023

Traditions of Animal Conservation in Odisha







Odisha has a long tradition of cultural conservation. The philosophy of conservation lies in the culture and ethos of a society that encompasses care of the forest in the form of sacred groves and the worship of wild species as incarnations of God. Many endangered species threatened to extinction in other places are conserved in areas where religious sentiments are attached with these creatures.




Humma: religious conservation of endemic fish-Mahashir (Tor mahanadicus)










Humma, a renowned historical monument is situated on the bank of the river “Mahanadi” about 27km from Sambalpur district headquarters. This important religious place of Hindus is famous for an ancient temple of Lord Shiva which has a unique architectural importance due to its slanting structure, otherwise known to be present only in the leaning tower of Pisa in Italy.










Another distinguishing feature of this place is the reverence for “Kado” or “Mahashir” fish as incarnation of the Lord “Vishnu” as “Matsya” avatar. Humma is a very distinctive place where community is protecting the endangered, endemic and commercially important fish species due to religious belief. About one and half kilometer from the river stretch in and around the temple is protected by the people of the Humma village. The most important role played in conservation is that of the fisher folk in the village who do not fish Mahashir, despite its commercial importance. The entire village through the temple committee takes decisions about the river stretch and the temple.




Maneshwar: A Safe Shelter for Indian Soft Shell Turtles (Asperadetus gangeticus)




A village named `Maneshwar’ situated in the Sambalpur district and got its name because of the presence of a three century old temple dedicated to Lord Shiva “Maneshwar”.  A distinctive population of soft shell turtles is also one of the attractions for devotees visiting this temple. The turtle otherwise is seriously threatened by the large scale illegal poaching activities.  It feels safe to the small water tank of the temple since it is believed that killing or harming them will bring misfortune. The tank is linked with the river “Malatijor”, one of the tributaries of River Mahanadi, the conventional habitat of turtles. A symbiotic association between villagers and turtles can be observed here, the turtles get safety and love from the villagers and villagers get clean water since turtles keep the water clean.




Star Tortoise (Geochelena elegana) revered in Parlakhemundi




A small population of star tortoise is protected in a network of temples in Parlakhemundi of Gajapati District. Parlakhemundi is a historical town, located on the bank of the Mahindratanaya river distinguishes itself from other towns in Odisha where Star tortoises are protected as incarnations of Lord Vishnu in almost all the temples. Though star tortoises are listed in Scheduled-IV of Wildlife (Protection) Act. 1972, they are globally threatened due to illegal trade. Illegal trade and their habitat destruction are the major threats to the species but people do not dare to touch these species inside the temple premises.




Koda bahal: Deer (Cervus axis) feel Safe in the embrace of villagers





In Koda bahal village of Sundargarh district villagers conserve a small population of spotted deer in two hundred hectares of mixed deciduous forest protected by them. Forest is the livelihood for villagers. Along with fulfilling their basic necessities it provides livelihood to them through various forests produce. Villagers believe that the wild animals are adored by the village deity and hence shouldn’t be harmed. Though this belief was prevalent, the conservation measures took shape in the late nineties when villagers started forest protection to make sure of the sustenance of forest that ensures their lives and livelihood. The regenerating forest provided suitable habitat to deer and other wild animals and rotational patrolling by villagers checked them frequently. Deer depredation on crops is a common experience in this village where agriculture is the prime livelihood source. Deer don’t hesitate to invade the human habitations and to raid crops in home gardens. A herd of deer roaming around villages is a common sight for villagers. However, the villagers seek official recognition so that they can improve their efforts and protect the animals that they adore and cherish.





Black Bucks (Antilope cervicapra) Protected at Bhetanoi-Balipadar-Region




Blackbuck conservation at Bhetanoi-Balipadar Buguda region of Ganjam is a famous example for community wildlife conservation. More than a thousand Blackbucks are taking shelter in an assemblage of seventy villages, located in a drought prone region of the State. These villagers also have to sacrifice considerable amount of their agricultural produce because of depredation by these animals. Odisha’s public learnt of Buguda, when it was awarded the first ‘Biju Pattanaik’ award for Wildlife Conservation’ for the year 2004-05. Documentary evidences that protection measures were further strengthened as the animal population began dwindling because of poaching and other reasons. As a result of the protection measures taken by the community the number have been increased from 100 to 500. Reportedly about 60% of the village has been left fallow due to water scarcity and crop damage. Yet, the villagers apprehend anyone found hunting the animal. The villagers believe that these antelopes are devotees of Lord Ram and Lord Krishna and thus it is a sin to kill them.




Pakidi: A Heaven for Peafowl (Pavo cristatus)




Pakidi hill range of Ganjam district came to the notice of the whole of Odisha when the “Peacock Protection Committee of Pakidi” got the prestigious ‘Biju Pattanaik’ Award for Wildlife conservation’ for the year 2005-06. This honour is further augmenting the aspiration for Peafowl conservation among the people of Pakidi. The people from seven villages are actively protecting the peacocks and everybody in the villages is concerned about the safety, food and water requirements of the bird. The Peafowl are so acquainted with the villagers that they don’t bother to fields at Pakidi is a common site for the Peafowl. The attachment of the villagers is at its best when women and children provide water to the peafowl in pitchers by traveling several kilometers in the scorching heat of summer. This is done on rotational basis where every person takes responsibility to protect the birds. The forest department has played an important role in facilitation of this initiative. People are considered the peafowl as an asset of their village and wish that outsiders appreciate these birds and their conservation efforts. Hence, they wish to develop the area as an ecotourism site. The site entertained the tourists and enjoy Peafowl sighting and the villagers could arrange funds to improve their efforts.





Protection of Birds: where winged visitors feel at home




Rugudipali is an example of such an initiative where the local community has been involved in protection of birds for the last 20 years. Rugudipali comes under Makundpur GP of Deogaon block of Bolangir district and it is situated 25km away from the district head quarters. The villagers have been actively involved in the protection of hundreds of Asian Open Bill Storks, locally known as ‘Kakada Baga’ (Gendalia in Odia) who have been a part of the village life since past two decades. The villagers state that the protection initiatives started twenty years back when these avian species were found to be visiting the area for the first time. It is interesting to find that the birds visit coincide with the onset of rain. These birds start coming to the area around mid of June (Sital Shasti) and stay up to November. The  villagers state that the security provided by the villagers have been responsible for inviting these birds in large numbers as they get safe breeding ground in the trees present around the villages. A similar kind of an initiative is observed near Dhanamandal railway station. Dhanamandal market place in Badchana Block of Jajpur District has been the home of the winged visitors (Asian Open Bill Storks) since more than 100 years. According to the local people, these birds come in flock each in a pair of two, in the month of June, breed and fly away with their little ones around the month of December. But Dhanamandal stands out from rest of the places as here the railway staff and the GRPF (Govt. of Railway Protection Force) are actively protecting these birds and happily play the role of custodians of these avian species. The local people revere the birds and take good care of these visitors and protect them from any threats. This unique co-existence of men and birds in the remote village of Odisha has now become a conservation model for many.




Gopa Chhak situated in Kendrapara District of Odisha is another area, which attract egrets and cormorants. This place has its importance as here; a group of businessmen have formed ‘Sitaram Banijya Committee’ to protect these birds. They do not allow hunting of these birds and have formulated certain rules and regulations for the protection of these birds.





In a natural situation baga gahan in Chilika Lake and Bhitar kanika, a large no. of egrets are sheltered and protected.