Nagarhole Range officer – Proud of Hejje and Gasthu!!
Nagarhole Forest officer Antharsanthe Range
Mahesha K is the range forest officer Antharsanthe Range nagarhole under which the world famous Kabini & Damanna katte fall. He is executing this duty for last one year and before that he was serving the Sergur Range. WildTrails India App caught up with him to see how things are turning out to be and what are the challenges he faced in the last year, what are his expectations and what are the highlights of his achievements and what he feels, he and the forest department need to learn and do more. Below are some of the highlights of our interview with him.
He feels forest is very well taken care of and all because of the amazing dedicated staff here who works round the clock. He also thanked the villagers of the surrounding places who in spite of regular man animal conflict, still are very patient and understanding and without their help & cooperation, he feels staff can’t do much.
He also said that forest dept. rules to compensate the farmers are very favorable and they settle immediately and the amount goes directly into their accounts for compensation for cattle and the settlement is slightly slow for crop loss but they do get it and villagers are pretty happy about it he feels.
When asked about recent tiger deaths in the nagarhole range especially the one which was darted in BB kuppe range and which died unnaturally, he frowns on the system and regrets that they don’t understand the local issues here and also he says that because of forest dept. protection and conservation, today we have 406 Tigers in Karnataka (according 2014 census – 72 in Nagarhole alone) – one of the highest in the county. He adds that there are times when we lose one or two due to such acts which we try very hard to prevent it but sometimes it does happen. He squarely blamed the system who sit in their cozy AC rooms and comment without realizing the issues on the ground zero.
When asked about the challenges he has faced so far, he says that man-human conflict exists in nagarhole and also maintains that villagers are very cooperative but he says that tourism is a tough one to manage but somehow they are managing. He won’t say all tourist/photographers are bad but their expectations are very high and work with media and create issues for them.
[Mahesha K officer with the WildTrails India App Editor]
Another issue he says is that FD is not thinking long term and are not planning for it. He wishes that wish they had planned more long term as the number of tigers due to great conservation effort is increasing and due to tigers being territorial, many are and will come out and hence create more man-animal conflicts – if long term planning is done, we can easily plan the corridor and also to shift to alternate forests where there are no tigers and lot more. He also felt that we the department are way behind when it comes to latest technology and state of the art equipments. He compares to Africa where he says that even in countries like Kenya and Tanzania they use modern technologies and equipments, and by using them, so many issues can be easily solved including the darting issue, man-animal conflicts and lot more.
He also feels that they need definitely specialized rescue team with high on training and with latest and modern equipments and he feels that FD should invest there.
When discussed about poaching, he says confidently that there is no organized poaching today anymore and it is all gone but only issues are the tigers when they get out of the forest, a few die due to the snares and a few deaths due to the man-animal conflict but he said that lot of education is going on in the bordering villages on how snares (which are mainly kept to catch the herbivorous one) can hurt and kill tigers and how to use more eco friendly nature fences to prevent such deaths.
He was very proud to say that the use of technology (mobile apps) – Hejje which forces anti poaching staff to update all sightings and all locations and how it all gets all reported to him on his console and he says this probably is one of the main reasons why we are getting all information about tiger deaths inside the forest which otherwise we would have not known at all. He is also extremely happy about an another app – Gasthu – which records what time you enter the forest and at what time you exit and at the exit they know what time you entered and they question you if you have sped through or spent a lot of time in the forest (earlier a lot of picnickers and party-mongers used to enter the forest , party and get out late but this is not possible today as they get caught at the exit. [We in fact tried this to test its effectiveness. We spent longer than usual in the forest on purpose and on the exit we were questioned and we had to finally tell them that we really wanted to know whether you will question us and they left us with a smile.]
[Nagarhole Leopards Kabini: Courtesy Giri Cavale of LensOwl]
He was also very proud to mention the usage of solar pumps inside the forest which pumps water to the tanks and are very critical for the animals especially during drought times and during summer when the tank which usually used to go dry
He was proud about the NGO work as they have worked hard to get all staff uniforms, shoes, utensils, sleeping bags, and lot more and also now staff has very good medical allowance which is really great and much needed allowance & incentive. BTW He said there are 72 staff in his antarsanthe range [Nagarhole has 8 ranges, out of which Antharsanthe is his range and others are Db Kuppe, Meti Kuppe, Veerahosana halli, hunsur range, anne choqkkir, Kal Halla and nagarhole]
[Nagarhole Black Panther Kabini – Courtesy WildTrails India App]
Interview would have gone longer but he got an emergency call to check something and he had to rush to the forest but we were very happy that he gave atleast that much time for us and we are grateful for the sane. Also one thing I have to stress is that for the first time I saw a forest officer who probably resembles a forest ranger in the US – very well built and super fit 🙂
We had to finally leave his office and get to JLR for the next set of works.
Thank You sir for your time and the wonderful interview!!
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