Wildlife Trust of India Vets Scramble During Recent Fire

This post was filed by the International Fund for Animal Welfare program communications officer Michael Booth who received this post only 24 hours ago.

Dr. Panjit Basumatary brings a leopard cub to safety amid forest fire

The forests are open to damage by many means, one of the worst of which is fire. Settlers and farmers who are clearing land often start big fires that get out of control. Poachers and fishermen are also responsible for many forest fires by neglecting to extinguish their campfires. Occasionally fires are also maliciously set by miscreants.

Autumn marks the advent of a dry and windy season in the north eastern states of India. Dry and windy weather encourages people to set fire and clean up debris left behind from winter. This is the time when forest fires occur and the wind plays a big part in the intensity of a forest fire.

If you visit the north eastern states of India, you’d see these kinds of fires all around. Recently I visited our Kokrajhar field station in the northeast Indian state of Assam.

It was a warm day with morning temperatures around – 28°C. The International Fund for Animal Welfare-Wildlife Trust of India field station of Kokrajhar is located in a lush green surrounding with Sal tree all around. Though the surrounding trees are green mostly throughout the year, it turns grey during the autumn season.

Upon reaching, I took a quick look at the centre and the newly constructed animal enclosures. We even released a pangolin nearby the centre and came back to the office to do some work. Suddenly I heard people screaming, smoke bellowing towards the enclosures. We rushed to the spot and saw a big forest fire just next to the animal enclosures.

The keepers rushed to evacuate the animals from their enclosures racing against the quickly burning fire - fueled by strong winds and dry leaves.

I kept filming the whole action. After an hour of effort the animal keepers along with help of the centre vet, Dr. Panjit Basumatary, controlled the fire by making a barrier that choked out the flames. We were relieved for the animals to see the receding fire.

“This season is a dangerous time for forest fires in and around our field station, as it is covered by trees in all sides,” said Dr. Basumatary. “Evil minded people set fire on the dry leaves in the forest floor just for fun sometimes. Recently we had a similar forest fire near the centre, which we controlled and saved the animals,” he added.

-- MB

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