Mr. Lakpa Tenzing

15 May 1978 – 6 April 2011
A simple person, with his wide smile being his best asset and always having the will to help others, Lakpa Tenzing was an extraordinary soul. Having grown up in a village right next to the Barsey Rhododenderon Sanctuary in West Sikkim district, he knew these forests like the proverbial back of his hands and was at par with any trained botanist in identifying flora. He, in fact, was the first guide to many who surveyed conducted surveys at Barsey Rhododendron Sanctuary. He would comfort the sanctuary’s first time researchers and make them at home in the alien surroundings. A keen learner, Lakpa never missed an opportunity to strike an interesting discussion with researchers visiting and surveying this area. As a forest guard, he took great pride in his khaki uniform and used it to conserve the forests and wildlife he so dearly loved. 

A true friend and a loving human
Lakpa was a true friend of WWF. During the height of monsoons in 2008, he graciously offered his house to be used as the base camp to conduct a questionnaire survey in the fringe villages of Barsey Sanctuary, his own village being among them. He went all out to comfort the survey team. Lakpa was also a dedicated family man and a loving father to a little girl. His loss is irreplaceable not only to his family and Sikkim’s Department of Forest Environment and Wildlife Management but also to WWF, as it has a lost a true friend for ever.

This is what WWF-India’s team members have to say about him:

Priya Shrestha: ‘’Red Panda sighting’’, Lakpa came shouting one fine morning at Barsey Rhododendron Sanctuary, as we were waiting at the entry gate. I still remember the excitement in his eyes, as he came running down to us. Wasting no time we promptly got into our vehicle and followed him as rode ahead on his two-wheeler. We reached the spot where he had seen the animal right next to the road and scanned the area for a long time, in vain though. But the red panda had left a mark on the gravel, at the spot from where it had darted down and we had to be content with it. Understanding what a sighting of red panda meant to any nature lover, Lakpa was more disappointed than us at not having been able to show it to us. Unfortunately that was the last time I was with him in the field.

I went to his village on a personal visit some time later and he invited me over to his house for a cup of tea, even though he was not keeping very well. And last month I came to know of his sad demise. I have heard many people saying only the truly blessed souls can encounter this elusive animal. This was surely true with Lakpa Tenzing. He is one blessed soul and we will always remember him.

Rajarshi Chakraborty: Lakpa was my first guide and partner when I took baby steps in my first survey in Sikkim in one of its most biologically rich corners – the Barsey Rhododendron Sanctuary. Way back in 2007, when I had zero idea about the land, people, biodiversity and topography, he was there to guide me inside that spectacular jungle and make me feel comfortable and at home in the alien surroundings. Together we had treaded Barsey’s terrain, with his treasure trove of knowledge on the local flora and fauna accompanying me. Sikkim’s astounding richness in biodiversity opened up in front of me for the first time due to this. He always walked that extra mile to finish an assigned job and always had a smile on his face. After 2008 as the focus of my work shifted, our association also became sporadic. But we kept visiting Barsey for various reasons, bumping into him each time.

The last time I saw Lakpa was in December 2010, when I was back surveying Barsey after what seemed like ages. Due to health reasons, he could not join us then. The last meeting happened when we were going down the main trail and he was walking up accompanied by some top brass of the Sikkim Forest Department. He expressed his sadness at not being able to join us and after a short chat, walked away laboriously. Little did I know this would be the last I would see him walking in the backdrop of Barsey. With his passing away, the department has surely lost one of the most dedicated and knowledgeable staff ever. WWF has lost a partner in the field and a long-time friend and personally have lost a “jungle” friend, a kind not easily made and always to be treasured. Barsey will never be the same again.

Partha S Ghose: I heard about Lakpa Tenzing when I joined WWF-India, Khangchendzonga Landscape Programme office in Sikkim, in October 2008. My colleagues Rajarshi and Priya told me that he was one of the most knowledgeable field personnel of the Forest Department and his knowledge of the flora especially that of Barsey Rhododendron Sanctuary was unmatched. I started working at Barsey Rhododendron Sanctuary in mid-2010 and was in contact with him ever since. However, his recurrent ill health kept him away from the surveys and whenever we met he would say with a smile “I am recovering from my illness fast and will join you in the next field survey”. But that never come true. Lakpa’s loss is irreplaceable not only for the Department of Forest Environment and Wildlife Management but for me as well, as I have lost a friend.

Dipankar Ghose: "Sir, look at those villagers” said Lakpa, pointing to a group of farmers working in a potato field below, as we trekked back from Barsey to Bhareng, way back in 2005- 06. “They seem to be telling that two persons and one policeman are walking down towards their village," he added. Along with Rajeev and Lakpa I was surveying a forest patch at Barsey Rhododendron Sanctuary, recently burnt due to a fire. Lakpa always took great pride in his khaki uniform. He believed the local people believed every khaki-clad person to be a policeman, and hence place them above the common man. I once took a photo of Lakpa holding his kid and when I showed him the same he requested me for its enlarged print-out. I forgot to give it to him. Sorry Lakpa, please forgive me…
 
© Dr. Dipankar Ghose/ WWF-India
Mr. Lakpa Tenzing
© Dr. Dipankar Ghose/ WWF-India
 
© Dr. Dipankar Ghose/ WWF-India
Lakpa with his daughter
© Dr. Dipankar Ghose/ WWF-India
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