Margaret Baru's journey in Debrigarh Wildlife Sanctuary

Prameyanews English

Published By : Prameya News Bureau | June 10, 2024 IST

Tuhina Sahoo

Sambalpur, June 10: I Amidst swirling clouds of dust, Margaret Baru, the sole woman safari driver of Debrigarh Wildlife Sanctuary defies conventions as she maneuvers her Safari jeep, surprising visitors with her skill and tenacity. The 21 years old and armed with a Class X education, Margaret stands as the sanctuary's sole female safari driver, breaking barriers and inspiring change.

 

For the past three months, Margaret, hailing from Christian Pada on the sanctuary's foothills, has been driving safaris, a task previously reserved for men. Despite her background in riding bikes and scooters, it was the male drivers within the sanctuary who taught her the art of jeep driving. 

 

In an exclusive interview with Prameya English, Margaret expressed gratitude to her mentors, acknowledging her initial fears of crossing paths with wild animals. Yet, with time, her fear has faded away, replaced by a deep passion for her profession and a love for guiding tourists through the sanctuary's wonders.

 

Margaret's journey symbolizes a broader shift in Debrigarh's ecotourism landscape. Anshu Pragya Das, the Hirakud divisional forest officer, highlights Margaret's pioneering role alongside Sangeeta Sirka, the sanctuary's first female ecoguide. Both women, hailing from villages near Debrigarh, represent the transformative power of ecotourism in rural communities.

 

Debrigarh Wildlife Sanctuary, nestled near Sambalpur's Hirakud dam, not only boasts rich biodiversity but also serves as a sanctuary of history and conservation. Home to over 40 mammal species, 234 bird species, and a diverse array of flora and fauna, the sanctuary attracts tourists from far and wide.

 

Beyond its natural beauty, Debrigarh has emerged as a hub for ecotourism, generating significant revenue and providing livelihood opportunities for local communities. With activities ranging from jungle safaris to hiking programs and boating excursions, the sanctuary offers immersive experiences for nature enthusiasts of all kinds.

 

The success of Debrigarh's ecotourism model is evident in its booming revenue and growing popularity among both local and international tourists. From the tranquil waters of Hirakud to the rugged forested mountains of Debrigarh, visitors are enchanted by the sanctuary's diverse offerings.

 

As Margaret continues to break barriers and inspire others, her journey embodies the spirit of empowerment and conservation that defines Debrigarh Wildlife Sanctuary.

 

Last year, Debrigarh's ecotourism earned booming revenue of Rs. 2.5 crore, with around 27,000 visitors from different parts of India and abroad. Popular packages like the 'Hirakud Cruise' and 'Island Odyssey' attract tourists seeking unique experiences amidst nature's bounty.

 

Jungle trekking, bird watching, kayaking, and cycling are equally popular activities, offering visitors a chance to immerse themselves in the sanctuary's natural splendor. With the recent introduction of hiking programs under the Nature Education Program, Debrigarh aims to further enhance visitors' connections with nature.

 

Beyond tourism, the sanctuary's ecotourism initiatives serve as a lifeline for nearby villages, providing sustainable livelihoods and fostering environmental stewardship. Managed 'Plastic Free' by locals, Debrigarh's ecotourism model stands as a beacon of community-driven conservation.

 

Margaret's story underscores the profound impact of women's empowerment and ecotourism on both individuals and ecosystems, shaping a future where nature thrives and communities flourish.

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