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Assam: Elephant whisperer Parbati Baruah honoured with Padma Shri

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HT Digital,

New Delhi, May 9: President Droupadi Murmu conferred the Padma Shri Award upon Parbati Barua of Assam on May 9 in recognition of her exceptional contributions to elephant conservation and wildlife protection.

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An acclaimed member of Assam’s Gauripur lineage, Barua is India’s first female elephant mahout and a prominent wildlife advocate. Born in Kachugaon, Assam, she began taming elephants at the age of 14, breaking societal norms and gender stereotypes.

Her work has significantly influenced elephant habitats in Assam, Kerala, West Bengal, Uttaranchal, and Uttar Pradesh. Using the Mela Shikar method, she has successfully rehabilitated over five hundred elephants. Besides, she has been instrumental in mitigating human-elephant conflicts, collaborating with forest authorities to devise sustainable solutions, and providing holistic care to elephants and their caretakers.

Her expertise has won her international acclaim, with participation in global forums like the International Workshop on the Domesticated Asian Elephant in Bangkok, Thailand. Barua’s commendable efforts have earned her prestigious awards such as the Asom Gaurav Award and the United Nations Environment Program’s ‘Global 500 – Roll of Honour’. In 2003, the Government of Assam appointed her as the ‘Honorary Chief Elephant Warden of Asom’.

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