Richard on-camera: We are traveling in a remote state on the northeastern cusp of India called ‘Assam.’ A throne-room of rushing rivers, raving monsoons and the most soothing of teas.
R voice-over: But perhaps most thrilling, Assam is home to a staggering array of wildlife. One animal, the Indian one-horned rhinoceros, stands as a special symbol to the people here. I’m off to find what the one-horned rhinoceros means to the people of Assam, and why it flourishes here as in no other place.
R VO: Somewhere in the far, far reaches of India…in the shadow of the Himalayas…. along the misty banks of the Brahmaputra river glides a grey blur that almost became a ghost. The one-horned rhinoceros, a rare species that a hundred years ago nearly vanished from the face of the earth. What kept the rhino from falling into the chasm of extinction? What can its story teach us about our world today; about saving precious wildlife, and, for that matter, all living things?
R VO: It was my old friend, Avinash Kohli, who got me started on my quest for some answers.
R OC: So Avi, I want ask you a question. I’ve travelled all through Indonesia, Malaysia, China, the length of Africa from Algeria down to Zimbabwe… I have never seen a rhino in the wild. It’s long been a dream of mine. So I’ve come to India. I know they’re here. Where is the best place to see them?
Avinash Kohli OC: There is a place called Assam in India. It’s unreal. You see 20 rhinos at a time.
R OC: Do you have time? Could you come with me and show me around?
A OC: Are you kidding? If you’re going, I’m coming!
R VO: About the size of Ireland or Indiana, Assam is a fertile valley in northeastern India. It’s a sweep of farmland and wildlife ranges, peppered with cities and towns. We’ll begin our journey in Manas National Park, and travel to villages near Guwahati, Assam’s largest city. We’ll sail the great Brahmaputra River, visit Majuli Island, and end in Kaziranga National Park.
R VO: For many Westerners, India conjures images of frenetic cities, filled with economic extremes… Or daunting hikes up Himalayan slopes. But our focus this trip is different. The quiet state of Assam floats like a kite off the shoulder of mainland India. It’s a place of deep, rich culture, and conservation work that’s been remarkably successful
R OC: Rhinos once roamed the earth. Not long ago, Africa teemed with them….too many to count. But today that continent is almost empty of the tank-like beasts. While here in Assam there are still tracks where thousands roam.
R VO: What went right here? What threats still exist, and what help is still needed? What can we learn?
R VO: Protected by natural barriers, Assam remained isolated for centuries. Manas National Park, coiled against the border of Bhutan, is an adventure novel come to life. Here Himalayan foothills spill into tropical forests and lightly treaded grasslands. If this place didn’t exist, you couldn’t invent it. And nobody misses the elephant in the room.
R OC: So this is a potentially dangerous situation. This beast is the king of this area, the largest elephant in this area. We’re in his territory. So these armed guards are pleading with the elephant to move. They are saying, "We’re afraid of you, you’re the supreme beast in this area. Please move to the east so we can pass.’"
R VO: You see, one leg behind, he’s just saying, "What should I do? What should I do? Should I go away? Listening to their prayer?" Again he’s stopped. He’s thinking.
R VO: To venture deep into Manas, Avi and I board the park’s more approachable, domesticated elephants.
R OC: There’s no better view; there’s no better ride in this park than atop an elephant. Their long, sleepy strides on cushioned feet suggest an appointment at the end of the earth, and though we may be close, we’re in no hurry to get there.
R VO: "The elephant is a gentleman," said Rudyard Kipling. Elephants are symbols of might and memory, harmony and patience, power and compassion.
R OC: I always strive for perfection in travel, which is movement without baggage. But even this guy, who’s pretty close to perfect, carries a trunk.
R VO: The people of the sub-continent have been training elephants for about 5,000 years. It’s no small task to keep these thunderheads of flesh and huge rolling bones. They feed about 18 hours a day, happily consuming up to 600 pounds of food.
R VO: Once a hunting reserve for royalty, Manas was declared a sanctuary in 1928. It’s now home to 19 of India's most endangered animals, including the golden languar monkey, the slow loris, and the stealthy man-eater, the Bengal tiger.
R OC: You know how your kitten likes to claw the furniture? Well, tigers do the same thing, only they use trees. This is a fresh tiger claw mark.
R VO: Tigers and other wildlife suffered greatly from poaching over the last decade. A conflict involving a local tribal group, known as “the Bodo”, triggered poaching as a means to trade for arms and cash. The good news is that the conflict has been resolved, and the Bodo tribal people have taken leadership in helping protect the animals. Locals have been recruited as park rangers, including even some former poachers.
R VO: This man lost his right arm while poaching wild boar.
R OC: Why did you become a poacher?
Translator for poacher OC: He said during the sedition, the Bodos sedition, he was very poor. There was no earning or source of income. So along with the others he entered the jungle to earn his livelihood and became a poacher.
R VO: Some poachers target tigers for the high price they’ll bring. Others hunt in the parks simply for meat, such as deer, to feed their families. They inadvertently come across a tiger and end up killing it.
R VO: At this newly constructed ecolodge on the eastern fringe of Manas, I catch up with an environmental expert who fills in more of the details.
R OC: So, how do you convince a poacher to become a conservationist?
Chandra OC: First of all we told them our dream, what we are dreaming for this locality. And we requested them not to go inside the forest and not to poach the wild animals. And we went village to village to motivate the people. And so all of them accepted our idea and they finally surrendered their contraband guns before society.
R VO: He explains how local students joined with tribal leaders to help mobilize the movement and to find financial alternatives for poachers, such as working as guards in the park. Poaching, as well as habitat loss, also threatens the Indian rhino, which is killed for its body parts.
R OC: In 1981 I joined Kenneth Kaunda, the President of Zambia, in a pledge to help motivate more people to come and see and save the black rhino of Zambia. I never made good on that pledge. And last year when I returned to Zambia, all the rhino were gone. So I say now, it’s good to come here. It’s good to see the rhino and be touched by the magnificence because then we can’t help but want to be involved in their preservation.
R VO: In a village on the outskirts of Manas, locals gather for a traditional harvest festival. Festivals are celebrated with fervor here. ‘Bihu’ is the name for Assam’s chief festival, and it occurs three times a year, marking the beginning of planting, the end of planting, and the harvest. The movements pay tribute to the sway and beat of nature, the lilt and cadence of seasons, the refrains of the soil. The grand finale is the torching of a symbolic “straw house.
R OC: The burning of the house signifies purging the house of evil: a fresh start, a new beginning.
R VO: Bihu is a feast for all the senses. And these special homemade sweets and cakes are prepared only during festival time. My friend Avi has the tempting details.
Avi VO: We’ve come on an occasion when they’re so happy that this year has been a good, prosperous year. This is the coconut, and this is the jaggery from sugar cane with seeds on top. And this is the next one, it’s from the popcorn. They take out the seeds.
R VO: It’s very healthy. There’s no oil. It’s all organic.
R VO: An important element of Bihu is that the entire community, irrespective of social status or religious beliefs, joins together as one to celebrate. And I wonder if this wholeness of community may contribute in some way to its wildlife conservation.
R VO: The name Manas comes from the loamy river that rolls through the wild heart of the park. Aquatic life abounds and birds screech above in search of prey. The passing theater of humming, tropical shoreline and the swirling waters provide a sublime introduction for some of the novice ecotourists in our group.
R OC: All right, let’s hold up for a second. Let’s do a left turn. To do a left turn, the left side back paddles and the right side forward paddles. There is nothing quite as perfect as a simple watercraft. By that I mean that perfection is attained not when there is no longer anything to add, such as in a rich man’s yacht, but when there is nothing more to take away, such as this raft.
R VO: In a river like this and in a boat like this, we glide along and we leave no trace, which is as it should be in a pristine and fragile wilderness. Few outsiders have dared to venture down this remote river. But, it turns out, the mix of gentle currents and fast water is the perfect tonic for the stresses of life beyond these borders, and reminds us of the value of protecting the few truly wild places we have left.
R VO: Assam has been a state of India since the nation’s independence in 1947. It’s the radial hub and gateway to many magnificent realms, including the Buddhist kingdom of Bhutan, the Christian state of Nagaland, and the primarily Muslim nation of Bangladesh.
R VO: Over its long history, Assam has absorbed streams of migrants from Bhutan, China and across Asia who penetrated this sheltered valley by different routes, and contributed in their own ways towards the fusion that’s come to be known as the Assamese people. Forty-five different languages are spoken in this multiethnic state. Some believe the name “Assam” comes from a Sanskrit word meaning “peerless.” Others say that it’s a remnant of the Ahom kingdom established here in the 13th century. The Ahoms, who journeyed from Burma, ruled for nearly 600 years, their power declining after the area was annexed by Britain in 1838.
R VO: Although the culture of today’s Assam is a hybrid of different ethnic groups, there are certain pervasive values. These include great hospitality, respect for traditional clothing and handicrafts, and a reverence for ancestors and spirituality.
R VO: Traveling to the town of Barpeta, I burrow deeper into Assam’s religious values hoping to find a piece to the puzzle of the one-horned rhino.
R VO: This temple was founded by Assam’s most famous spiritual leader, Srimanta Sankardeva. A 15th century social reformer, playwright and composer, Sankardeva started a religious movement that transformed Assamese society, and is a cultural bedrock today.
R OC: You touch it with both hands? And we are paying homage?
R VO: Sankardeva established satras, or monasteries, to nurture his philosophy. Satras became the guardians of religious celebration and culture, and have helped preserve Assam’s music, dancing and arts.
R OC: The movement worked to uplift the poor and downgrade the caste system. Not only was he a fervent advocate of all human rights, but the rights of animals and plants. And this was based on the simple principle that all living things are God’s creation and deserve compassion and respect.
Satradhikar VO: We are proud that in our state the question of casteism, division on the basis of caste, on the basis of color, religion, is much, much less than anywhere else in the country.
R VO: I meet with the satra holy man who spreads the teachings of Sankardeva to the people.
R OC: And what was his belief concerning animals?
S OC: He says that right from the dog to the wolf and every animals are same as that of human beings. And as human beings, we believe are part of God, so are the animals. They are also part of God. So as you honor your own self, honor everyone.
R OC: As we honor our own selves, we honor everyone and every animal and every living thing.
R OC: The mysteries of the East have always tantalized the imaginations of the West, sometimes leading to idealized, distorted or downright mistaken results. The Indian one-horned rhinoceros is a perfect example.
R VO: When German artist Albrecht Dürer created this woodcut in 1515, no rhinoceros had been seen in Europe for more than a thousand years. Then, an Indian ruler shipped a rhinoceros to the King of Portugal as a gift. The German, who never actually saw the animal, based his drawing on a written description of the beast.
R VO: So compelling was Dürer's fanciful image that for the next 300 years European illustrators mimicked his anatomically incorrect picture, with features such as a second horn on the shoulder, even after they’d seen the real, living rhinos. Imagination can be stronger than knowledge; myth more potent that reality.
R VO: In a village about an hour outside of Guwahati city, crowds of revelers welcome us. They’ve gathered here as part of the Bihu festival, and to cheer on a boat race. The paddlers carve bright lines through the water, and it seems there is almost a spiritual relationship between the river, the water crafts, and the boatmen.
R OC: The people here have always been great boatmen. The rivers of Assam have been their source of commerce and livelihood since the beginning of time. And it was because of their lightening fast skills in these boats that they were able to beat back the Mogul invasions seventeen times.
R VO: This style of racing originated in China more than 2,500 years ago; about the same time the games of ancient Greece were launched at Olympia. Boat racing was an important part of Chinese agricultural society. The ancients believed that racing could appease spirits who would ward off misfortune and encourage crops to flourish.
R OC: Ten, twenty years ago, adventure travel was all about the adrenaline rush—climbing high peaks, running wild rivers. But more and more, people are seeking authentic connections with different cultures. And the thrill that comes from seeing the world through different eyes.
R VO: Textiles are deeply intertwined in Assam’s cultural identity. Fabrics are hand-woven and dyed, and the motifs are typically flowers, birds and animals symbolizing the different tribes and ethnic groups. Many women here are expert weavers, though their work is generally only for home use and not put up for sale. When Mahatma Gandhi visited this state, he commented, “Assamese women weave dreams in their looms.” The most common way to welcome a visitor is to present him with one of these neck scarves, smoothing the roughness of a new encounter with a gift of home spun cloth.
R VO: Brass and bell-metal work are enduring cottage industries in this corner of India. Like Assam’s guiding philosophies, the skills have been passed on from one generation to the next for as long as anyone here can remember. Village artisans spend their days hammering cut metal sheets into fine shapes, and women use river reeds to polish them to a golden luster. Metal ware was first manufactured to meet the demands of royal families. Now it’s commonly found in households as eating utensils or used for religious rituals.
R VO: The restless contours of the Brahmaputra River evoke temptation and fear all at once. Springing from the roof of the world in Tibet, it charts a course that cuts through the Himalayas, north to south, carving the deepest gorges on earth. It takes a long breath as it winds through Assam, finally merging with the Ganges to form the world’s largest delta.
R VO: Brahmaputra…the name has magic in it. It means “Son of Brahma,” the creator of the universe. And it’s the rich soil and nutrients that it carries down from the mountains that have allowed so much agriculture and wildlife to flourish here. It is a never-ending flow of abundance.
R VO: Pabitora, 35 miles east of Guwahati, is one of about a dozen wildlife sanctuaries in Assam. This park is another triumph of a local community owning its fate by preserving its natural assets and resisting outside exploitation. Pabitora was declared a forest reserve only after the people here pressured the government to do so.
R OC: The people of Assam, who have long been stewards of their natural assets, are seeking ways to build a responsible tourism market. One that will not only lead to greater environmental protection, but will improve their standard of living. They’ve witnessed the irrevocable mistakes so many others have made, and know they have a singular chance to get it right.
R VO: Plans are underway for more eco-lodges that allow visitors to get close to the natural world without disturbing habitats. And local leaders are working with the villagers so that all can participate in a meaningful way with tourism development.
R OC: Westerners love to savor a soothing cup of tea in the afternoon. But we don’t often consider where these delicate leaves come from. How are they grown and harvested? What journey do they take to reach our lips? And what do they mean to the people and lands at the source?
R VO: Assam has been a world leader in tea production for more than a century. There are nearly 750 tea plantations across the state, and many surround rich wildlife regions.
R OC: Each tea plantation in Assam has its own history, one of sweat, toil and not uncommonly death. By the early 19th century, Britain was already deeply consumed in its love affair with tea.
R VO: Most of the leaves came from China, making them expensive to ship back home. The Brits, with a strong foothold in India, were eager to find suitable areas for cultivation here. In 1823, an Assamese noble led Scotsman Robert Bruce to a plant growing in the wild here. Fifteen years later, hundreds of pounds of tea were shipped to London and the tea industry in India was born. Consumers were impressed with the quality of the tea, and in the following decades, hordes of European speculators came to Assam to plant tea gardens.
R VO: The advent of tea was not a blessing for wildlife though. Plantations wiped out enormous tracts of habitat. Rhinos were seen as agricultural pests and sometimes killed to keep them from trampling crops. But over time, the plantations had a surprising effect. They began to serve as a kind of ‘buffer zone’ for animals, protecting them from more destructive development. And because plantation work employed thousands of people, it helped stem overwhelming pressure to hunt wildlife for survival, as is still the case in much of the world.
R VO: Many of India’s former tea plantations have been converted into elegant guest houses. This one, called Wild Mahseer Lodge, was established by the British Assam Tea Company around 1875. Now it’s not only an oasis for travelers, but the center for a movement called “Naturenomics.” Supporters of Naturenomics believe that people should not have to choose between earning a living and protecting the environment. Instead, they try to create successful businesses that are also sustainable and organic.
Durgadas OC: The most important challenge is employment, how does one keep his fire burning at home. So what we’re trying to do is basically work with the local communities here, trying to make them ambassadors of saving nature. So once we achieve that, which I think we have already achieved to a certain extent. There’s a certain amount of awareness among the people, let’s not kill the birds, let’s not poach the wild animals, let’s co-exist with them. Because of them the tourists will come in here and Wild Mahseer will become a hub of all the wild animals and activities and nature and things like that. So let’s preserve it.
R OC: In my household when I was growing up, there were only two types of Indian tea—there was Darjeeling and Assam. And when my mother wanted to get exotic, she would blend the two of them. But it looks like there’s a little bit more to the story than just two types of tea.
R VO: Today tea is the world’s most popular drink and, like wine connoisseurs, tea lovers find just as many subtleties in this elixir.
Tea Taster OC: Basically tea tasting means you take a cup, a sip of the tea and hit it against your palate.
R VO: The plantations here generally produce black tea, in contrast with the green tea typical of China. With black tea, leaves are fermented; for green tea, they are not. Today Assam produces more than half the tea grown in India. Freed from its colonial past, Assam is now determining its own destiny in its tea fields and its wild places.
R VO: Majuli Island lounges like a bathing goddess in the middle of the Brahmaputra River. At 250 square miles, it is the largest freshwater island in South Asia. The ferries that cross to and from Majuli are faithful attendants, carrying seekers of all sorts to the island. The trip takes about an hour and half, a puttering montage of river, sky, and boats loaded with cars and human cargo. Even out here I spot images of Assam’s symbol: the one-horned rhino. Disembarking requires a coordinated effort by a team of agile dock workers, and sturdy planks of wood.
R VO: The island is a center for worship of the god Vishnu, and has been considered the cultural capital and cradle of Assamese civilization for the past five hundred years.
R VO: Majuli is home to more than 20 satras, or monasteries, founded by that great reformer Sankardeva. Sankardeva articulated and championed a form of Vishnu worship that was simpler and more accessible than the ritualistic Hinduism of the day, one that put a premium on all forms of life. In Vishnu worship, also called “Vaishnavism,” there is one Supreme God whose essence pervades all beings. Thousands of believers continue to make pilgrimages to these satras each year, to soak in the teachings of Sankardeva.
R VO: The satra achieves a kind of correspondence between belief and place…Such gracious, delicate, feminine movements….. These are boys in training to become monks, and, as thousands before them, the chain of tradition is maintained through ceremony and dance.
R OC: India was the first place to create a judicious shield against human rapacity to animals. Asoka the Great in the 3rd century BC mandated the first laws to protect fish, game and forest.
R VO: It helps explain why Assam today is a fisherman’s dream. Anglers are drawn here, often on a quest for their own ‘white whale’: the Golden Mahseer, an almost man-sized fish that swims only in a narrow strip along the Himalayas. For Avi and me, fishing in Assam is a state of mind, a pursuit of the elusive but attainable, an exercise in hope.
R VO: But for the women of Majuli, fishing is a more practical matter. They’re here to find food for their families. These dome-shaped baskets made of bamboo strips are the tools of choice. Working in teams, the women move through shallow waters corralling their quarry. When a fisherwoman traps a fish, she pulls it out through the stem and stashes it into her sari.
R VO: The paradox of the Brahmaputra is that the very floods that bring the soil that allows people and wildlife to prosper are destroying this island. Upriver deforestation and constant erosion cause ever larger floods. To date, about a third of Majuli’s landmass has disappeared and, without intervention, in 20 years Majuli may cease to exist.
R VO: Back on the mainland, the air is filled with bird song. And Assam’s biodiversity carries on a delicate dance with its human habitants. In this bird sanctuary, hundreds of species relish this rich, wetland eco-system on the southern bank of the Brahmaputra.
R VO: And not far away is the Hoolock Gibbon sanctuary. Over the last century, much of Assam’s rainforest was stripped away by unmanaged logging. But here, the endangered Hoolock Gibbon and six other primate species find safe haven in a protected canopy of first-growth forest.
R VO: The Assamese bond with the land and nature is profoundly rooted in its agricultural heritage. Farming is a way of life here, not just for tea and staples, but for a connection to ancestors and the cycle of life. The main food crop is rice, but cotton, vegetables and tropical fruits flourish as well. Historically most of the food in Assam was “organic by default,” that is, farmers couldn’t afford pesticides even if they wanted to use them. When pesticides were introduced, locals began seeing severe effects on their health. Life expectancy rates have gone down, and some blame it on the chemicals.
Organic farmer OC: My mother is also a cancer patient and doctor told me that, she is not alcoholic, she never takes tobacco, so I asked him what may be the reason. My doctor said maybe the consumption of pesticides for the last 30 to 35 years.
R VO: Some farmers are now taking on new leadership roles.
Organic farmer OC: We are producing vegetables without using any pesticides or inorganic. We’re also trying to teach local people to cultivate in this way, without using any pesticide or nonorganic materials because these are, as you see, these are harmful for the health. So that there is a general trend developed that, yes, we should go for bio so that we can live longer.
R OC: So this is the Assam version of a motivational poster, a quote from Gandhi: “The earth provides enough to satisfy every man’s needs, but not every man’s greed.”
R VO: The rub and rancor of wildlife permeate Kaziranga, Assam’s first National Park. The picture on the park sign tells me we’re getting closer to the object of my quest: the Great One-horned Rhinoceros. Pulsing with animal life, the park sprawls some 400 square miles along the southern bank of the Brahmaputra.
R VO: Once again, riding an elephant is like riding a giant tree come to life. It is animal magnitude from another time. The park is wrapped in a fine-wool of mist. Kaziranga provides refuge to a host of endangered species, such as the shy swamp deer.
R VO: Kaziranga is no city zoo, and each day here is an unexpected adventure.
R OC: So you can see on the back of this baby elephant, there’s blood. And that’s from a tiger attack that happened moments ago just out here in this field. And this team of park rangers went out and rescued the baby elephant and just brought it back. Oh boy. He’s got a big chunk taken out right here.
R VO: Though the baby is obviously very shaken, the wardens assure me that he should recover.
R VO: My pulse quickens as Avi tells me he thinks a one-horned rhinoceros might be nearby. There it is! Its official name is Rhinoceros unicornis. With its thick panels of armor-like skin and mighty upturned horn, the rhino seems more like something out of a unicorn’s dream.
RV OC: The rhino as a real beast disposes of everything; it evokes magnificence, power, which are everything in this world. After the elephant, this creature is the most massive land animal on earth and can tip the scales at more than two tons. The rhino is an herbivore, a slow grazing figure emanating a sense of quiet contentment. The Buddha tells us to “walk alone like a rhinoceros…renouncing violence against all living things, harming not even a one.”
R VO: But the Indian rhino’s narrative has been a harrowing one. In the nineteenth century, rhinoceros here ere hunted relentlessly. And by the early twentieth century, only about a dozen remained. Government officials were stunned by the rhino's plummeting numbers, and in 1910 rhinoceros hunting in India was outlawed. Today, more than 2,000 rhino roam in Assam.
R VO: Poaching continues to threaten the survival rhino, which is killed for its horn and other body parts. Rhino horns are believed by too many to be an aphrodisiac. The superstition is completely baseless as the horns are made of the same simple protein as hair. Still, they sell for a high price in China and other Asian countries. And with on-going economic struggles in Assam, poaching offers a strong temptation for the poor or greedy. Yet Assam, as no other place, has beaten back these forces so far.
Malakar OC: It’s my field staff actually, they are so dedicated. They work round the clock. The pressure is there. Especially as you know, rhino poaching. There’s tremendous pressure on the rhinos. But as I say round the clock, round the year.
R VO: The wardens know they must continue to be vigilant. But their success so far is a tribute to the leadership of individuals who possessed the vision and passion for a good cause. And spirituality is woven deeply into these conservation efforts.
M OC: Vaisnavite culture says that animals, their soul is also Ram – Ram is God – their soul is also Ram so we should respect accordingly.
Dharanidhar OC: We must protect them. They also have an equal right to live in this world. So we civilized species of human beings must come forward to protect and conserve the forests and wild life. Then only we can keep this nature properly for our coming generation.
D OC: I love all animals, because they are all created by God. So we have interrelationships among all creatures. Without those animals, we cannot survive. So we must love all animals, all reptiles, all mammals, so then only we can survive here harmoniously, sympathetically with all creatures.
R VO: Assam’s record is enviable, but going forward more help will be needed. New visionaries, like my friend Avinash Kohli, are stepping up to encourage visitors to come to Assam, to experience the wonder of these magnificent animals in this wild place, and to be part of a movement that sustains them for footsteps far into the future.
D OC: So one group of tourists, they came to visit this national park, they were from Thailand. And they told me, we had also rhinos. Because of our forefathers, we lost this species. So now they realize, they regret it, but they cannot create again. So you see, in the case of American people, they have gone to the moon. And in the case of medical science, they can do eye transplant, they can do heart transplant, they can do brand new person. But if we lose one species from this world, let those scientists come here. Is it possible to create again? Never.
R VO: Assam has had the audacity to believe in preservation and promise, the will to invest in growth that doesn’t cheat our children. Now perhaps the rest of us can be so inspired. The Indian one-horned rhino stands as a symbol of our better impulses.
R OC: So then what is different about Assam? How has it managed to preserve its wildlife when so many other places have failed? It faces the same challenges as all other wildlife rich regions: population pressures, poachers, environmental degradation. Yet it enjoys elements that uniquely braid together to create a web of protection—empathy, faith and economics.
R VO: Assam is steeped in religion and philosophy that revere all life. And it has developed economic models that provide livelihoods in concert with nature, from tea growing to ecotourism. Nothing happens unless we dream, and Assam is a dream awakened.
R VO: What you can do:
- Learn more about endangered species
- Donate to the International Rhino Foundation
- Buy organic produce
- Visit Assam and see for yourself