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Ill-timed move! Over 200 anti-poaching camp staff of Bandipur relocated, says wildlife activist Joseph Hoover

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Mysuru: In an imprudent move on August 6, over 200 daily wage workers in Bandipur National Tiger Reserve, have been relocated, according to wildlife activist Joseph Hoover.

Says Hoover “Bandipur is home to over 130-140 endangered tigers. To relocate staff is the prerogative of the field director of tiger reserve. The officer can do what he wishes to do, with the consent of the Chief Wildlife Warden. Here we aren’t questioning the administrative powers of concerned senior officers. But we are questioning the ill-timed move to relocate frontline staff, who are literally the eyes, nose and ears of our wildlife landscapes. They are more critical to forests than officers.”

Chief Minister Basavaraj Bommai who pledged to protect our elephants on the occasion of World Elephant Day should immediately intervene to put forest protection issues in right perspective, demanded Hoover.

Assistant conservators of forest and rangers who have been holding on for long should be relocated, not temporary forest watchers, Hoover has urged.

The officers shouldn’t have indulged in mass relocation of 205 anti-poaching camp (APC) staff. Instead these temporary staff could have been shifted either within the same range or to an adjacent range. But, temporary forest watchers are sent to distant anti-poaching camps. Some as far as 30 km.

A temporary worker takes home Rs 11,000. Considering the pittance he is paid, he can’t afford to spend money on transportation to visit his family.

Invariably people from adjoining villages are absorbed as temporary forest watchers to maintain a harmonious relationship with local communities. It helps to cool frayed tempers in man-animal conflict situations.
Without forest watchers walking 10- 12 km every day on beats, our forests and wildlife would be vulnerable to exploitation by smugglers and poachers.

Their salaries are frugal, compared to their rigorous work. They are often paid once in three or four months. They beg and borrow to sustain their families until the government pays them, through private agencies who get one per cent commission for the service.

Our unheralded forest warriors are paid Rs 100 per month to enrich their diet with vegetables. Unlike permanent staff, they are not provided uniform and boots. With a machete to protect themselves from possible attacks from wild animals and poachers, they brave the odds while courageously treading through dense forests.

Instead of reprimanding errant, friendly rangers, the temporary staff who are privvy to gory happenings inside inviolate areas of Bandipur Tiger Reserve have been punished with relocation, stated Hoover.

– Team Mysoorunews



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