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Breaking gender stereotypes: ‘Van Durga’ Heena Patel champions biodiversity protection

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HT Bureau

GUWAHATI, Dec 7: Heena Patel, a distinguished forest ranger from Gujarat, challenges gender stereotypes by proving that a forest ranger’s capability is not gender-specific. Patel is one of three women honoured with the prestigious ‘Van Durga’ at the ongoing Asian Ranger Forum (ARF) in Guwahati, recognising their commitment to forest and biodiversity protection.

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Speaking at the global event, Patel emphasised that capability is determined by an individual’s determination, not gender. Despite facing initial challenges due to stereotypical mindsets, Patel’s determination helped her overcome obstacles. Her work as a range forest officer involves dealing with live creatures, and she highlighted that rescue operations recognise no gender.

Patel, currently working in Social Forestry at Navasari, Gujarat, focuses on wildlife, including stray Indian Leopards and rock pythons. She actively engages with local communities, raising awareness about scheduled species, wildlife conservation, and human-wildlife conflict through various programs like Prakruti Shibir (camp) and Wildlife Shibir.

Navasari, a wetland area, serves as a haven for avifauna and migratory birds. Patel’s awareness initiatives have contributed to a reduction in the poaching of avifauna. She addresses challenges such as fallen trees during cyclones and heavy rains, emphasising the importance of coexisting with leopards.

Despite the traditional practice of assigning male forest guards for rescue and release operations involving leopards, Patel has challenged this norm by involving female forest guards. Her efforts reflect a commitment to promoting gender diversity in the protection of forests and wildlife.

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