The group of wives and mothers are called the guardians of the Chunati Wildlife Reserve. Each morning they don their green colored saris and then they patrol the forest along with government rangers to look for anyone who is trying to harm or disturb any of the area wildlife or the hundred year old trees.
One of the women bragged, “When we come along in our green saris, the people who want to cut down the tress run off and hide.” She proudly told media crews that in the years since the women began making their trek through the forest, that she and the others have seen the rebirth of the 77-square kilometer area.
The sanctuary was once badly damaged by loggers and farmers, and since the women have started patrolling the area, it is now coming back. The patrols regularly see birds, monkeys, foxes and sometimes they even see elephants. The trees, too, are starting to grow back, which the women say will help their community.
The women’s community patrols are part of a larger plan to help bring Chunati back to a robust state. The program is funded by the U.S. Agency for International Development and Germany’s development agency GTZ. It has been instrumental in rejuvenating this area and its 25-year-old sanctuary that serves as a path for the Asian elephants that migrate between Bangladesh and Myanmar.
As for the women, they are volunteers, but they also get a small payment of about $50 for joining the program. Several of the women have purchased a cow with their money. They either drink the milk themselves or sell it in the marketplace for extra income. Being a member of the patrol also earns them honor and respect from their village.