Wildlife Service Awards (2004)
Pankaj Sharma has served as a ranger in the Assam Forest Department for over 20 years. He is the co-author of several books and articles on the bird life of Assam. In 1990-91, Sharma served as Ranger at the Laokhowa Sanctuary. Laokhowa’s rhinos had been wiped out seven years earlier and armed miscreants roamed freely. Despite this, by strictly implementing the law, he minimised illegal interference by these armed gangs and as a result was severely assaulted. From 1993 till 1997, he was part of a crack team in charge of the Kaziranga National Park. Poaching was a major threat at this time, and the Baguri range, which Sharma was in charge of, had the highest rhino concentration in Kaziranga. Thanks to his bravery and dedication, the number of rhinos poached fell from 25 in 1992 to six in 1996. During this phase, Sharma was personally involved in seven encounters with armed gangs, which resulted in the death of 13 poachers and the arrest of a few more. Ignoring risks to his life and threats to him and his family, he helped secure the future of Kaziranga, which today has over 1,800 rhinos. For the next six years, he served at the Nameri Wildlife Sanctuary, which was upgraded to a national park and then also became a tiger reserve. He was involved in further armed encounters here. He is currently posted at the Dibhru-Saikhowa Sanctuary, and some of Kaziranga’s rhinos may now be translocated with his help to restock Dibhru Saikhowa, where they once roamed free.