How Forest Guards, With Low Pay & Life on Line, Protect the Wild
India’s forest guards, the foot soldiers of conservation efforts, protect humans from animals & animals from humans
Video Editor: Deepthi Ramdas
Camera for Interview: Shiv Kumar Maurya
India is home to 75 percent of the world’s tiger population. Assam’s Kaziranga alone houses over 70 percent all the one-horned rhinos of the world. The policy makers, forest officials and environmentalists take credit for India’s conservation efforts, and rightly so.
But the ones who are in the forefront of this effort are the forest guards – barely recognised and their stories rarely told.
National award-winning wildlife filmmaker Krishnendu Bose, through the Animal Planet show, Heroes of The Wild Frontiers, puts the limelight on these unsung heroes, who have their “boots on the ground” and to make a world of difference.
“Next time you go into a forest and see a tiger or an elephant or a leopard, just think about how these guys are even there with a population of 1.3 billion people. How are they even there? Who is the last person who is saving them?Krishnendu Bose, Wildlife Filmmaker
Shot across India – covering Leh, the Andaman islands, the Sunderbans, Kaziranga, North Bengal and Arunachal Pradesh – the gripping six-episode series is hosted by Green Oscar winner Ashwika Kapur.
“The one thing I noticed that tied these forest guards together is a genuine, very genuine, deep felt love for nature.”Ashwika Kapur, Heroes of The Wild Frontiers Host
“We’ve seen it for ourselves. There are no working hours, there’s no family, and there are bullets flying all over you. You are dealing with rhinos, elephants, tigers and leopards, and some tigers love human beings – human flesh. And you are walking in those parks, those reserves, every day, and with pittance of a salary. Some forest guards have told me on camera that their salaries are less than that of a constable’s.”Krishnendu Bose, Wildlife Filmmaker
Challenges Faced By Forest Guards
Bose shared that it is difficult to specify and focus on one set of challenges for the forest guards, as it depends on which park they are working in.
“To specify and focus on one set of challenges would be wrong because these challenges depend on where they are, and every park and every ecosystem has its own challenge. They meet these challenges every day, throughout their career.Krishnendu Bose, Wildlife Filmmaker
“Just to give you an example of how in a split second, things can get dangerous in the forest. I will give you an example of what happened in Kaziranga. So we were in the jeep and we were filming, the forest guard who was with me and we were looking at a rhino to our right and literally out of the blue, without warning,this rhino, which was not even 20-30 feet away, decided to charge full speed at the car.”Ashwika Kapur, Heroes of The Wild Frontiers Host
Forest Guards & Forest Dwellers
Bose explained that often, the forest guards are caught in a challenging situation as they have the responsibility of saving the animals from the community and vice versa.
“Forest itself is very complex in India. Because you are talking about 1.3 billion people and 7 percent of biodiversity. So, for them to be together is a very conflicting space, always. And who are the guys who are at the ground level? Who are the guys who are feeling the heat? It is the forest guards. The conditions in which they live...50% of the entire forest staff is vacant. So, you can imagine, one person is doing two people’s jobs.”Krishnendu Bose, Wildlife Filmmaker
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