Purnima Devi Barman is leading the ‘Hargila Army’ of women in Assam to protect the endangered adjutant stork or hargilas.
During her childhood, Assam-native Purnima Devi Barman used to see huge flocks of Greater Adjutant Storks, commonly known as ‘hargilas’, in her grandmother’s paddy field.
While pursuing her PhD, she saw a group of men cutting down a kadamba tree from which a hargila nest fell and the birds died. At that moment, Purnima decided to protect the species which is now listed in the endangered category.
“My grandmother instilled my love and passion for nature. But it was during my Masters’s in ecology and wildlife biology when my professors spoke of the endangered Greater Adjutant Stork, which was then nowhere to be seen in my grandmother’s paddy fields,” says the conservationist.
She started organising events and awareness programmes to spread the significance of preserving the species.
In 2015, she formally established the ‘Hargila Army’ of women working for the conservation of this endangered species. Today, the 10,000-member team protects the storks, trees and nature.
Hargila is now part of their culture – making plays and songs about the bird as well as printing their motifs on clothes. They have been successful in increasing the number of nests from 27 to 250.
For her conservation efforts, Purnima was awarded the Nari Shakti Puraskar in 2017 and the Whitley Award from the UK.
Even though the number of birds is still on the rise, Purnima hopes that she will be able to see them swarming the paddy fields like before.
Watch the passionate journey of the ‘stork sister’ here:
Edited by Yoshita Rao