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From wildlife guardian to wildlife photographer

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Srinagar: In the heart of the breathtaking Dachigam National Park, a sanctuary for the rare and elusive, a silent guardian has found a voice through the lens of his camera.

Ghulam Ahmad Bhat, a stalwart member of the Wildlife Department at Dachigam, who has tirelessly served the wilderness for over three decades as a Wildlife Guard, has unveiled a hidden passion – the art of capturing the untamed beauty through the eye of his camera.

Since 1992, Bhat has been the silent custodian of Dachigam’s rich biodiversity, but it was only a few years ago that he discovered a fervour for wildlife photography.

His journey from safeguarding these rare species to becoming their visual chronicler is nothing short of remarkable.

“I have been working in the Wildlife Department for the past 31 years. A while ago, I developed an interest in wildlife photography. And when I used to see the pictures that I had clicked, I wanted more and more people to see them,” said Bhat, his eyes reflecting the passion that fuels his newfound artistic endeavour.

His privileged access to the no-go zones of Dachigam National Park, where few are permitted without seeking special permission, has allowed him to capture the most intimate moments of the park’s residents.

“So very few people are able to see these wild animals,” he said, underscoring the exclusivity of his encounters with the denizens of the wild.

Bhat’s portfolio boasts an impressive array of species, ranging from the rare Kashmiri Hangul, the enigmatic Black Bear, the elusive Leopard, to the majestic Himalayan Serow, the cunning Jackal, the fiery Red Fox, and even the serpentine beauties – snakes, including the Levantine or Pit Viper.

His foray into wildlife photography began in 2016, fueled by a desire to share the enchanting allure of the park’s inhabitants with the world.

“I want everyone to see these wildlife creatures,” he said, echoing his wish to spread the joy of nature and wildlife.

The officers in the Wildlife Department, who share his love for nature, have been supportive of Bhat’s passion, never discouraging him from indulging in wildlife photography.

With their encouragement, he has been able to capture breathtaking moments of Black Bears, Hanguls, Leopards, Jackals, Red Foxes, Yellow-Throated Martens, and a plethora of birds, including the rare Orange Bullfinch bird.

One of his most prized accomplishments is capturing the almost mythical Himalayan Serow on both video and photograph, a feat deemed nearly impossible due to the creature’s elusive nature.

Bhat has also immortalised the rare Flying Osprey, ensuring that every beat of its majestic wings is preserved for posterity.

Despite his extraordinary achievements, Bhat remains humble.

“I don’t want to monetise my wildlife photography. My only wish is people should see photographs of these rare wildlife creatures,” he asserted, emphasising his altruistic motivation to share the wonders of the wild with the world.

As Bhat continues to tread the untrodden paths of Dachigam National Park, his camera serves as a bridge between the enigmatic world of the wilderness and the eager eyes of those yearning to witness its untamed splendour.

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