English language news articles from year 2007 plus find out everything about Asiatic Lion and Gir Forest. Latest News, Useful Articles, Links, Photos, Video Clips and Gujarati News of Gir Wildlife Sanctuary (Geer / Gir Forest - Home of Critically Endangered Species Asiatic Lion; Gir Lion; Panthera Leo Persica ; Indian Lion (Local Name 'SAVAJ' / 'SINH' / 'VANRAJ') located in South-Western Gujarat, State of INDIA), Big Cats, Wildlife, Conservation and Environment.
Tête-à-tête with Leelabai, a
59-year-old forest guard in Kanha
“I was walking back to the field
camp, when a tiger decided to take the same path as me. It looked me
straight in the eye and kept moving in my direction. (...) The tiger
came close... and then just trotted off into the bushes,” Leelabai
reminisced. “The tiger must have seen the uniform and understood
that it’s the malik (owner) out for a walk.”
Leelabai is not a celebrated ‘wildlifer’ or
photographer, nor has she published any research papers or been a
part of any conglomeration of conservationists. She has spent the
last nineteen years of her life living in the forest, armed with
nothing but a stick and sheer raw pluck and courage, guarding the
forest as part of the forest department. She and WTI's Jose Louies
probably would have never crossed paths had the organisation not
conducted Crime Prevention Training for the frontline forest staff,
an initiative supported by IFAW, at Kanha National Park.
Fondly called amma (mother) by
her colleagues, including many officers, Leelabai will be turning 60
this December and it’ll be time for her to retire from the forest
department. Here are some excerpts from Jose's conversation
with her- What made you join the department?
... I got this job as a forest guard in 1985, after my
husband was killed by some poachers. I was left all alone with four
children- two boys and two girls. The department offered me the job
as a means to make ends meet and I decided to take it up. What’s your daily routine like? ... We
go patrolling, at least around 10 km every day inside the forest.
There isn’t an animal that we don’t come across... whether it is a
tiger or a gaur, we see them all!
What do you think about
the tiger? ... Oh... what do I think?
(Laughs) You tell me what I should be thinking about
when a majestic animal like the tiger crosses my path! Simplyput,
it’s the pride of our forests. After all, you’re sitting in the land
of the tiger and people come from all across the world to see a
tiger here! So yes, I feel very proud about our tigers.
(...) Have you ever caught a poacher yourself?
... What do you think, kid? That I’ve been in this position for so long but haven’t done anything?
As a forest guard, I’ve been part of quite a few seizures and seen
them detaining a lot of suspects. Once, in fact, during my
patrolling with two casual workers we came across a father-son duo,
who were jungle fowl hunters who were setting traps in the forest.
As soon as they saw us they tried to run away but we caught them
easily. I gave two tight slaps to the kid and asked him why he’s
spoiling his life by getting into this murky business and leading a
life of crime. We went back, collected all the traps and handed them
to the senior officials later. So many incidents like these have
happened; it’s hard for me to recall all of them. It’s all a normal
part of our life here.
To read the rest of this exchange and see what else
this amazing lady had to say, go here.
Leelabai is symbolic of those hundreds of unknown
and unheard of ‘glorified’ protectors of our forests and the
wildlife in them. It’s not just a job for them but literally living
in the middle of the jungles, they risk their lives every day for
the cause. It’s not an easy life, patrolling for kilometres on end,
living in minimalist field camps to survive, braving the harsh
varying Indian weather all year round, battling against all odds to
act as the first line of defence for our wildlife.
Here’s hoping that her story and her contributions
are now known to the world and helps inspire more people to join
forces for to help save wildlife.
contribution you make helps us take these small steps toward our
vision to secure India's natural heritage. Donate Now
Trust of India is a national conservation organisation committed to
effective action for the protection of India’s natural heritage. Our
principal objectives include managing or preventing wildlife crises
and mitigating threats to individual wild animals, their populations
and habitats through holistic strategies and practical