Purnima Devi Barman
Purnima Devi Barman
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Pub Majir Gaon, Kamrup, Assam
|Education||Masters in Zoology|
|Alma mater||Gauhati University|
|Known for||Founder of Hargila Army|
Dr. Purnima Devi Barman is a wildlife biologist from Assam, India. She is known for her conservation work with the greater adjutant (Leptoptilos dubius) and is the founder of the Hargila Army, an all female conservation initiative. In 2017, Barman was the recipient of the Whitley Award (which is also known as the green oscars) for her conservation efforts. In 2017, she was the recipient of the Nari Shakti Puraskar, the highest civilian award for women given by the President of India.
Purnima Devi Barman attended Gauhati University where she obtained her Masters in Zoology, with a specialization in Ecology and Wildlife Biology. In 2007 she started her PhD research, but she delayed finishing it until 2019 in order to focus on community conservation education in villages in rural Assam. Barman has worked as a Senior Wildlife Biologist in the Avifauna Research and Conservation Division at Aaranyak, a non-government organization for biodiversity conservation. Barman coordinated Aaranyak’s Greater Adjutant Conservation project. Barman is also a Director at WiNN (Women in Nature Network) India, and a Member of the IUCN Stork, Ibis and Spoonbill Specialist Group.
Barman is known for her work with the greater adjutant, a large stork listed as endangered by the IUCN red list. It has a global population of 800-1,200 mature individuals, with the majority of these individuals (650-800) found in Assam India. In Assam this bird lives in close contact with urban areas, nests in privately owned trees and scavenges at rubbish dumps. As a result, the greater adjutant is threatened by pollution, habitat loss, and felling of nesting trees.
Barman began working with greater adjutants while conducting her PhD research in the remote villages of Dadara, Pacharia and Singimari in the Kamrup district of Assam. In 2007, she witnessed a tree owner cutting down a tree containing a greater adjutant nest with nestlings inside. This led Barman to discover that this bird had a bad reputation among the villagers due to its unattractive appearance, scavenging nature and foul-smelling nests. Barman then decided to postpone her PhD in order to focus on educating local communities about the ecological importance of the greater adjutant.
Barman led a number of conservation campaigns that integrated the culture and traditions of the local villagers. These included presenting conservation messages during religious functions, cooking competitions, street plays and community dances. Other education techniques included involving film celebrities to spread conservation awareness, and throwing celebrations for owners of nesting trees used by the greater adjutant. Education campaigns were also directed at children and young adults, using games and activities to educate them on the ecological importance of the greater adjutant.  A scholarship was also developed for children of nesting tree owners. Barman also gathered support from Kamrup district government by inviting government officials to visit greater adjutant habitat and by engaging local forestry and police departments to directly participate in conservation actions.
Barman is also the founder of the Hargila Army, an all female grassroots conservation group named after the local name of the greater adjutant. This group is comprised of over 10,000 members including 400 local Assamese volunteers. Their goal is to remove all obstacles that prevent greater adjutant conservation. This movement has been credited with empowering marginalized women and giving them a voice in local conservation issues.
Barman and the Hargila army also actively rescue and rehabilitate injured greater adjutant nestlings. Villagers place nets around nesting trees to catch nestlings if they fall out of trees on windy days (especially during monsoons), and injured nestlings are given medical treatment, rehabilitated at a local zoo then released by the community. Barman has also developed an artificial breeding platform for the greater adjutant, which was successfully used to hatch a nestling in 2019.
Since the onset of Barman’s conservation efforts, local greater adjutant populations have increased. When conservation efforts began in 2007 only 28 nests were found in the Kamrup district colony, but as of 2019 there were 200 nests making this greater adjutant colony the largest in the world.
Barman is also credited with integrating greater adjutant conservation into the culture of rural Assamese villages. Following Barman’ conservation efforts, villagers of the Kamrup district have become actively involved in greater adjutant conservation  and as of 2010, no nesting trees have been cut down. The greater adjutant has also been incorporated into local folk songs, traditions and cultural festivals. For example, villagers give expecting greater adjutants a baby shower or Panchamrit ceremony, using the same rituals done for expecting Assamese women, and Greater Adjutant Day is celebrated every year on Feburary 2nd. Women of the Hargila Army also weave images of the greater adjutant into their fabrics, spreading awareness about conservation while generating income for their families.
Notable Awards and Honors
Barman has received several awards including the Whitley Award (which is also known as Green Oscar) in 2017 presented by Her Royal Highness Princess Anne. This award is presented to grassroots conservation leaders across the developing world to support the growth of effective conservation actions. Barman is also the recipient of the Nari Shakti Puraskar (Highest civilian award for Indian Women) presented by the President of India, Ram Nath Kovind. Barman has also received the Leadership Award 2015 from the Conservation Leadership Programme (CLP),  the Future conservationist award 2009.
- Barman, P.D., A.K Das, B.K Das, S. Biswas. 2011. Conservation Initiatives for Greater Adjutant in Assam, India. Final Report, CLP project ID 331509. Aaranyak.
- Barman, P.D., M. Barthakur, A.K. Das, J. Das. 2014. Greater Adjutant conservation through community participation in Assam, India. Final Report, CLP Project ID F03110012. Aaranyak.
- Barman, P.D., and D.K Sharma. 2015. Largest breeding colony of Greater Adjutant, Leptoptilos dubius Gmelin, in Dadara-Pasariya-Singimari Villages in Assam, India. Zoo’s Print. 30(11): 5-6.
- Barman, P.D., S. Ali, P. Deori, D.K. Sharma. 2015. Rescue, Treatment and Release of an Endangered Greater Adjutant Leptoptilos dubius. Zoo's Print. 30(9): 6-9.
- Barman, P.D., and D.K. Sharma. 2017. Behavioural ethogram of the endangered greater Adjutant Stork Leptoptilos dubius (Gmelin). International Journal of Zoology Studies. 2(6): 272-281
Purnima Devi Barman in the media
- Wangchuck RN. How One Woman With a Special Plan Saved Assam’s “Hargila” Storks From Extinction. The Better India. 2019 Aug 1 [accessed 2019 Nov 3]. https://www.thebetterindia.com/190470/assam-stork-hargila-visit-conservation-rescue-save-barman/
- Whitely Awards. Purnima Barman, India - Whitley Awards 2017. Youtube. [accessed 2019 Nov 7]. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=-eWLp_eCWBE
- Chatterji R. Assam Conservationist Purnima Barman Has Won The “Green Oscars.” HuffPost India. 2017 May 18 [accessed 2019 Nov 3]. https://www.huffingtonpost.in/2017/05/17/assam-conservationist-purnima-barman-has-won-the-green-oscars_a_22096493/
- Goswami R. Village forms ’ hargila army’. 2016 Feb 18 [accessed 2019 Nov 3]. https://www.telegraphindia.com/states/north-east/village-forms-hargila-army/cid/1531206
- Whitley Fund for Nature. Inspiring women to protect Assam’s greater adjutant and its habitat. Whitley Award. 2017 May 19 [accessed 2019 Nov 3]. https://whitleyaward.org/winners/inspiring-women-protect-assams-greater-adjutant-habitat/
- Assam’s Purnima Devi Barman achieves Nari Shakti Puraskar from President. G Plus News. 2018 [accessed 2019 Nov 6]. https://www.guwahatiplus.com/daily-news/assam-s-purnima-devi-barman-achieves-nari-shakti-puraskar-from-president
- GU fraternity felicitates two conservationists. The Assam Tribune. 2017 Jul 1 [accessed 2019 Nov 6]. http://www.assamtribune.com/scripts/detailsnew.asp?id=jul0117/city058
- Barman PD, Das AK, Das BK, Biswas S. Conservation initiatives for Greater Adjutant Stork in Assam, India. Aaranyak; 2011. Report No.: Final Report CLP project ID: 331509.
- Welcome to Aaranyak. Aaranyak. [accessed 2019 Nov 6]. https://aaranyak.org/default.asp
- . Assam’s Hargila conservation movement gets a boost from New Zealand High Commission. Women In Nature Network. 2019 [accessed 2019 Nov 6]. http://www.womeninnaturenetwork.org/recent-news
- Meet our members – Stork, Ibis & Spoonbill Specialist Group. IUCN SSC Stork Ibis and Spoonbill Specialist Group. [accessed 2019 Nov 6]. https://storkibisspoonbill.org/members/
- BirdLife International. Leptoptilos dubius. IUCN Red List of Threatened Species 2016. 2016 [accessed 2019 Nov 3]. https://www.iucnredlist.org/species/22697721/93633471. doi:http://dx.doi.org/10.2305/IUCN.UK.2016-3.RLTS.T22697721A93633471.en
- Barman PD, Ali S, Deori P, Sharma DK. Rescue, Treatment and Release of an Endangered Greater Adjutant Leptoptilos dubius. Zoo’s print. 2015;30(9):6–9.
- Perinchery A. Purnima Barman works with communities to protect a scruffy, endangered stork in Assam - The Hindu. The Hindu. 2017 Dec 30 [accessed 2019 Nov 3]. https://www.thehindu.com/sci-tech/energy-and-environment/purnima-barman-works-with-communities-to-protect-a-scruffy-endangered-stork-in-assam/article22325079.ece
- Barman PD, Borthakur M, Das AK, Da J. Greater Adjutant Conservation Through Community Participation in Assam, India. Aaranyak; 2014. p. 76pp. Report No.: CLP Project ID F03110012. Final Project Report.
- Barman PD, Sharma DK. Largest breeding colony of Greater Adjutant, Leptoptilos dubius Gmelin, in Dadara-Pasariya-Singimari Villages in Assam, India. Zoo’s print. 2015;30(11):5–6.
- Goswami R. Green Oscar for Assam conservationist. The Telegraph. 2017 May 18 [accessed 2019 Nov 3]. https://www.telegraphindia.com/india/green-oscar-for-assam-conservationist/cid/1500119
- About Us – Whitley Fund for Nature. Whitley Award. [accessed 2019 Nov 6]. https://whitleyaward.org/about-us/
- Knight T. Endangered giant stork protected by all-female army. Fauna and Flora International. 2018 Apr 18 [accessed 2019 Nov 3]. https://www.fauna-flora.org/news/national-recognition-indian-conservationist-mobilised-female-army
- Conservation initiatives for greater adjutant stork in Assam, India. Conservation Leadership Programme. [accessed 2019 Nov 3]. http://www.conservationleadershipprogramme.org/project/greater-adjutant-stork-assam-india/
- Barman PD, Sharma DK. International Journal of Zoology Studies. 2017;2(6):272–281.
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