What matters is the man behind a machine, so is it in wildlife management

 

I make first quick round of the Panna Tiger Reserve (Madhya Pradesh, India), after arrival early in the morning from Delhi. Wonderful. Wildlife is all over the place – Cheetal, Sambar, Wild Boar, Chinkara…

I get back to the Karnawati FRH where I am lodged. As I get out of the vehicle, one gentleman greets me. I do not know him but nevertheless courtesy demand, and I reciprocate. I see, he is six feet tall, slim & trim, thick moustache, smart man. I get the impression ‘this man must be from army.’ We do not talk.

Later in the night, the caretaker, Bhure Lal peeps in to my suite while I am relaxing and scribing notes of the day, “Sir, Range Officer is here to see you.” As I rise to welcome, here enter the gentleman about whose greeting me in the morning, I just narrated. Pleasant surprise. There is no physical sign of his being a Forest Range Officer – no potbelly, no dullness, no shrewd looks…

The gentleman is Amar Sigh Gond, Incharge, Madla Range of Panna. I ask Bhure Lal to manage a drink.   Amar politely declines, “Thank you sir but I do not drink anything.” And adds, “I only take simple meal.”

Strange. I ask myself, “Can there be a simpler person in forest service, that too in a wildlife sanctuary, who does not drink, does not drink even tea, supper teetotaller!” Bhure Lal later informs me, “Very rarely, he takes few sips of tea, out of courtesy to provide company to a senior guest.”

Amar tells me, “Sir, I have walked every inch of Panna.” That’s commendable. It’s one-line complete introduction of a forester. These days even guards need bike to go around forest. Amar’s mobile keeps ringing, non-stop. He is either giving orders or taking orders.

You may wonder, ‘why I am writing about a person in my wildlife blog?’ Indeed, I think, it is equally important to talk about wildlife managers and for that matter about persons who have devoted themselves to wildlife conservation.

Amar’s contribution is immense. Just for the background, Panna lost all of its tigers because of various reasons, including mismanagement around 2000s. This unfortunate situation was beyond belief. A plan to rejuvenate Panna was perceived by reintroduction of tigers by relocating surplus animals from other Tiger Reserves. First tiger was reintroduced in Panna in March 2009 and immediately after this Amar joined the Reserve. He has been part of tiger reintroduction success story, almost from day one.

Amar is tribal to core, literally. As his surname indicates, he belongs to Gond tribe of Central India – Joint service 21 years ago in 1996 as a humble Forest Guard. Incidentally, he belongs to the nearby area, Buxwaha in adjacent Chhattarpur district of Madhya Pradesh.

Initial days of ensuring security to relocated tigers have been very tuff. Keeping track of tigers without satellite radio collars was always testing job.

Amar has been a keen wildlifer. He says, “I used to climb and sit in trees regularly for hours to watch and monitor wildlife.” He proudly narrates the story of a tigress, numbered as T 2. “While I am up in one tree in Madla one day, T 2 with four cubs arrives and settles below the tree. The camera noise alerts the cubs and they look up. The tigress also notices my presence. Interestingly, the tigress does not feel threatened and remained below the tree for more than an hour!”

Amar’s immense courage in protection of wildlife and controlling wildlife crime have been duly recognised n number of times. He has received several awards and recognitions. Latest being the State Wildlife Conservation Award 2016 few months ago. Similar award he got in 2011 also. Amar has received formal appreciation letters and awards from the Panna Tiger Reserve and Wildlife Conservation Trust several times. Amar proudly adds, “Sir, I received appreciation from the Union Minister of State for Environment and Forests, Shri Jairam Ramesh ji also in 2011.”

It is apparent the management has posed full confidence in him. Though he is junior rank official but has been assigned a senior post. Yes, he is a man of rule and law.

Amar says, “I am most happy working for and watching wildlife. The day I am not able to go to forest, I get depressed.”

In the end, I may add, forests and wildlife are under pressure – encroachment, poaching, tourism, development…. Amar is very important and India needs more Amars.

Pushp

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2 comments

  1. Sunayan Sharma · April 4

    I can appreciate your feeling dear Pushp about this Amar. It was a time we used to have such front line staff personnel though in limited number but yes they were there in most of our wild life reserves and good forests but over last 20 yrs. there numbers are falling sharply. That is the reason Sariska in 2004 was declared tigerless and Panna in 2008. Still I appreciate that MP Govt. has woken up in time. They have started recruiting field personnel including Rangers and ACFs on regular pattern every year where other states like Rajasthan are worst at this. After 96 there has not been any recruitment of Foresters,Rangers and ACFs in Rajsthan. Now instead of currecting the wrongs so done ,the government is marching on the path of privatisation of important wild life areas like Ranthambhore.
    In such scenereo acknowledgement to field officials like Amar Singh becomes more relevant. I also offer my heartiest greetings to Amar Singh Gond. I too have a plan to visit Panna may be next winter sometime . I shall try to meet Amar Singh and pay my respect to his devotion.

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    • pushpkumarjain · April 4

      Thanks for going through the piece and presenting detailed comments. In this piece, through Amar Singh I am appreciating services of all the great foresters including the officers like you who are endangered species. I am lucky to be able to spend close moments with friends like you.  Pushp JainDirectorEIA Resource and Response Centre (ERC)N 71, Lower Ground Floor, Greater Kailash 1New Delhi 110048 IndiaPh : 91-11-49537774, 49536656 M : 91-9868280344Web : ercindia.org; Email : ercdelhi@gmail.com

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      | | | Sunayan Sharma commented on What matters is the man behind a machine, so is it in wildlife management I make first quick round of the Panna Tiger Reserve (Madhya Pradesh, India), after arrival early in the morning from Delhi. … I can appreciate your feeling dear Pushp about this Amar. It was a time we used to have such front line staff personnel though in limited number but yes they were there in most of our wild life reserves and good forests but over last 20 yrs. there numbers are falling sharply. That is the reason Sariska in 2004 was declared tigerless and Panna in 2008. Still I appreciate that MP Govt. has woken up in time. They have started recruiting field personnel including Rangers and ACFs on regular pattern every year where other states like Rajasthan are worst at this. After 96 there has not been any recruitment of Foresters,Rangers and ACFs in Rajsthan. Now instead of currecting the wrongs so done ,the government is marching on the path of privatisation of important wild life areas like Ranthambhore. In such scenereo acknowledgement to field officials like Amar Singh becomes more relevant. I also offer my heartiest greetings to Amar Singh Gond. I too have a plan to visit Panna may be next winter sometime . I shall try to meet Amar Singh and pay my respect to his devotion. View Comment  Trash | Mark as Spam |

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