Forest dept to train certified volunteers for tiger census

Move to check influence by VIPs to accommodate their candidates

Forest dept to train certified volunteers for tiger census

The National Tiger Census 2013, commencing on Wednesday at Bandipur and Naghole tiger reserves, has drawn enthusiastic volunteers in their droves.

The forest department, in order to avoid such a rush in the future, plans to train a dedicated force of 1,000 volunteers certified exclusively to conduct the census. 

The department’s move comes in the wake of volunteers trying to influence officials with recommendations from VIPs to accommodate them with the task.

“He has been recommended by the former chief conservator of forest... Send him to Gundre,” a forest official at the Bandipur tiger reserve was heard telling his colleague who was registering the volunteers for the census. Another woman was there because she knew an officer.

Recommendations

This is not just a case of one or two, but many of the over five hundred volunteers now at Nagarhole and Bandipur had got recommendations. “Most of them have been recommended by the district honorary wildlife wardens,” says a forest staffer here.However, there are some of them are from the senior staff, local leaders and former officials. “There were calls to me to help the volunteers join the census,” said A C Lakshmana, former secretary, the Department of Forest, Ecology and Environment.

There were just a couple of them in the past, but the number of people seeking such favours is increasing these days, he said.

Admitting to it, R Gokul, Conservator of Forest, Nagarahole, said there were as many as 324 volunteers at Nagarhole, many of whom were bringing in recommendations. But he termed it a positive trend, as the efforts of conservation was paying off.

He said it was a result of constant awareness regarding conservation and increasing interest of the urban lot towards the forest.

Gokul said they plan to split the volunteers. “We have a batch of volunteers for the first three days. We will have another for the remaining three days. This is because not all are willing to stay back in camps for six days,” he added.

Principal Chief Conservator of Forests and Chief Wildlife Warden Vinay Luthra said that on a pilot basis, Karnataka Eco Tourism Board had trained volunteers in August regarding animal behaviour and introduction to plants and animals, acquaintance with the forest.

The training is open to all interested in the wildlife and willing to undergo training at their own cost. “There have been more inquiries regarding the second phase training programme. We will begin soon to meet our requirements,” he said.

Considering the demand to volunteer for census, Luthra said tiger census can be a potential tourism revenue source. He said with people keen on participating in the event by paying to be a part of it, the event can contribute to tourism. “They will come here, get educated and talk about it across the world. Our effort in conservation will be reduced,” he said.

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