Assam: 3 conservationists win big at Sanctuary Wildlife Awards
Actress Dia Mirza presenting the award to Munmuni Payen

Guwahati: At the Sanctuary Wildlife Awards ceremony held in Mumbai on December 3, three Assam-based conservationists were awarded for their service to nature.

The first award went to the Nagaon-based environmentalist Rituraj Phukan, honoured with a Sanctuary Wildlife Service Award. Phukan is a renowned environmental writer, adventurer and conservationist who has represented Assam and the country in numerous global climate change events. 

Besides Phukan, the loudest applause of the night was reserved for 23-year-old Munmuni Payeng, who won the Young Naturalist Award for her work with grassroots communities. Munmuni is the daughter of Padma Shree Jadav Payeng, famously known as the Forest Man of India.

Eminent conservation scientist Dr Vibhu Prakash, who is known for his pioneering work on vultures and was instrumental in setting up the Vulture Breeding Centre in Rani, Assam, won the Lifetime Service Award at the event.

“The Sanctuary Wildlife Awards were launched in 2000, and our strategy then was to shine a spotlight on virtually unknown wildlife defenders and their work. These defenders include forest guards and middle-level forest officers, quiet but brilliant scientists, teachers, young adults and photographers. They all had one thing in common – a burning desire to protect the biosphere and leave a better, safer planet for future generations,” said Bittu Sahgal, Founder of Sanctuary Nature Foundation and Editor, of Sanctuary Asia. 

Bangalore-based Ramana Athreya, known for his discovery of the Bugun Liocichla bird in Arunachal Pradesh, educationist Panchami Manoo Ukil from Odisha, conservationist Arun Venkataraman from Tamil Nadu, naturalist Shabbir Husain from Kashmir were the other Wildlife Service winners.

The Sanctuary Wildlife Awards were presented by former Punjab Police Chief Padma Bhushan Julio Rebeiro, UN Goodwill Ambassador and actress Dia Mirza, Bombay Natural History Society Director Dr Bivash Pandav, and other dignitaries at the National Centre for Performing Arts in Mumbai.

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