Thursday, August 15, 2019

Tiger Conservation: Unspoken Sentinels The Forest Guards

I remember long time back whence I was freelancing with TigerLand Resorts at Kanha National Park, I was assigned a group of school children from New Delhi. The group also included teachers from the DPS School who obviously were the caretakers for the tour. 

The tour comprised of safaris and lecture on wilderness, a sort of awareness campaign full of fun and interesting experience for the children. 

On the first night, the teachers refused to sleep in their rooms facing the jungle. Well the staff was instructed to sleep in the front of the doors and the matter was taken care. 

"We will be eaten by a tiger!"

Dead tired, I promised to discuss with them the next day. All I had to state next day was the fatalities, murders, road accidents, robberies. psychopaths, nuts, killers, fast cars, and blah blah dangers which they confronted daily or rather each given moment in the Metro.

"It is unlikely a tiger would kill you, if you sleep here in the room or venture out on foot everyday. The rural folks trudge into these forests for collecting wood every day without fear. The forest guards move alone in these forests to protect wildlife.

People die because of accidental encounters or due to deliberately impinging on the animal's private space. But these incidence are rare as a matter of fact very rare. You are  a thousand times safer here, so please all through your stay be at peace." They did!      

The true sentinels are the front line staff the forest guards, deputy rangers etc. They are the people who traverse or scour through the forests on foot looking for snares, traps, local goons, illegal minor forest produce collectors and yes sophisticated poachers and ultras. That is huge burden on two small feet and feeble body.

Forest Hut & Guards
In the deep confines of the forests they trudge on foot, bicycles and motor cycles. In the tiger land this would be an extreme adventure for most of us, not for the guards, they are on duty that needs extreme courage, sincerity and dedication. Coming across the tigers, other wild animals and reptiles is frequent, for some it may be on daily basis. But they are well versed with the ways of the wild and keep themselves safe.   

Whence we revel in the ever increasing tiger numbers these are the people who deserve the awards and the glory for successful tiger conservation in our country facing extreme odds, adversities of unparalleled nature whence compared with dwellers in the cities.  The threat is not from animals, the threat is from the intruding humans, poachers and the criminals etc. As stated above. 

The threat from animals is of a different nature head on charge is a rarity, they have to avoid accidental encounters the most at which the guards are good at. An odd aberrant behaviour may be the reason for a tiger killing a guard. Yes this does happen but once in a blue moon...but we humans are more likely to die of accidents, criminal charge or in an act of terrorism.

We especially the reporters should abstain from vilification of wild animals in case of a tragic encounters, we are no longer in their food chain and accidental killings should seen from a rational perspective. Habitual man killers are anyway incarcerated or killed.

Sometimes the forests guards have to face the wrath of the locals whence a big cat kills a man who has come too close. Yes most of such killings are in self defense whence a threatened tiger finds a man very close for comfort, or whence villagers try to snatch away the kill.        

Like our soldiers who face violence of the worst kind, the sentinels being discussed here also face threats to their lives...remember they are unarmed. In some of the tiger reserves the threat is from ultras while that from organized sophisticated poachers too is prevalent albeit not extensively in India. As a precaution the foresters move in a group or in company of another. But whence occasion arises they have to move alone.

The hard life of labour and constant patrolling -even in challenging weather day and night- is what our foot soldiers do in the tiger reserves keeping it safe so the wild animals thrive. They safe guard the ecosystem as whole. They also supervise small construction works like building dams, roads, waterholes and canals etc. The foresters are responsible for the safety and well being of the labourers who are involved in the construction works.

They are the virtual arms of the mechanism that keeps the reserves alive and kicking. Like the patrol elephants they keep an eye on the wild animals and the forests, and report to the higher officials or the camps nearby for assistance or attention.   

Most of the foresters live in the patrolling huts or fire watching camps deep inside the forests. For items of basic necessity they depend upon feeble supply chain mechanism or acquire it themselves whence they visit the small towns nearby.  They are always at beck and call of any emergent situation that arises in the deep confines of the forests.

Far away from emergency care and their families, they live in isolation but nevertheless fulfill their duties without fail. They are the stars of the conservation units and deserve appreciation and all benefits that can be possibly accorded to them.

Some of the foresters are excellent animal trackers and have an in depth understanding of animal behaviour. They are very good at recognizing the floral elements present in these biodiversity hubs. I have been interacting since many years with our front line warriors and never felt lack of resolve or spirit amongst them to protect the magnificent ecosystems that the country has inherited.

The forester's job involves multitasking for they can work as clerks, tourism supervisors, maintenance crew, as host for filmmakers and esteemed guests, and assist the veterinary staff whence the need arises.

Hail The Heros!!
Uday freelances as a naturalist and loves to write on tiger conservation and environmental issues.