Bhubaneswar, Oct 3 (UNI) Orissa Chief Minister Naveen Patnaik here today presented the Biju Patnaik award for wildlife conservation, 2006-2007, to the ''Sri Sri Mahavir Pakhi Surakhya Samiti'' for their exemplary contribution to wildlife conservation.
Once themselves bird poachers, they are now actively associated with the anti-poaching drive and persuading the people of their villages to give up the illegal activities of bird-poaching in the vicinity of the Chilka Lake, the largest brackish water lagoon in Asia.
About ten years back, the poachers experienced a change of heart and came forward to take up the cause of protecting millions of birds thronging the lake every winter.
They gathered under the banner of the Sri Sri Mahavir Pakhi Surakhya Samiti at Mangaljodi village, located close to the Chilka lake, and persuaded the people in their village and other neighbouring villages of Sundarpur, Kalupada, Chilka Sahi and Sorana to give up poaching and help in conservation of the birds.
The efforts of the organisation, comprising 17 members, were recognised after ten years and the award was conferred on it on the occasion of the wildlife week celebrations.
The anti-poaching squad was presented a cash award of Rs one lakh and a citation for rendering dedicated service spanning over a decade toward the cause of protection of the birds in the Chilka lagoon.
Wildlife officials said the young anti-poaching squad had foiled many attempts at poisoning, shooting, netting, trapping and capturing of migratory birds by the villagers.
They also imposed rigorous surveillance over suspected poachers, helped the forest officials in conducting raids on restaurants and households serving bird meat and also organised motivational campaigns for protecting the birds in a sustained manner.
The group also helped the forest officials in detecting 19 offences under which the wildlife offenders were booked and prosecuted under the law.
They also successfully motivated the fishermen and cattle grazers of the area, through street plays and meetings, to restrain from encroaching into the birds' nesting and roosting habitats, former Chilka Development Authority Chief Ajit Kumar Pattnaik said.