This Malenadu woman guards forest for love of nature

In the tiger’s den

Forest Guard Netra Gowda

Life risks and encounters with wild animals did not deter this woman from serving deep inside forests for the last eight years.

Meet Netra Gowda, a forest guard, also in-charge Deputy Range Forest Officer (DRFO), in Bandipur. The 2009-10 batch forest guard is serving in the region since her appointment. In fact, she was the first woman guard to be posted in Bandipur.

A native of Honnavar in Uttara Kannada district, Netra Gowda, is the daughter of Thimmegowda. She has come across several challenges and also faced life risks from animals, but, she did not give up her dream. When she was new to the department, she confronted a herd of wild elephant, which chased her away during field visit.

“I was rescued by colleagues,” she said. Now, she is confident of handling any situation. Netra served in anti-poaching camps and was part of tiger census. She had stayed overnight in forests during emergencies.

‘Blessed to be in forest’

Netra says she is blessed to be amidst nature, free of cost. “When thousands of people come here to enjoy the nature, by paying money, I am enjoying it for a salary. I am blessed to be here amidst forests and wildlife,” she says.

She is also interested in photography. During her free time, she goes out in the forest to shoot photos of animals. She has more than 1,000 photographs to her credit.

As she is from the Malenadu region, Netra is passionate about forests and nature before she joined the department. Her passion doubled after her appointment. “I was familiar with forests, but, developed more love towards animals and nature only after joining the department,” she said.

Though several women joined the department with Netra, no one opted Bandipur. Several of her batchmates suggested her not to go to Bandipur. Even now, her friends and well wishers force her to shift to other place. But, she wants to be in Bandipur. Netra was transfered to Kundapur Division in 2015, but, she declined to go.

Netra joined the Forest Department unexpectedly, after her PUC. “I just applied for the job and got it. I did not have any intention to join the department,” she said. Now, she has obtained a BA degree through correspondence.

Challenges

“Risks are there in all walks of life. We should overcome them to achieve our goals. This is an opportunity for me,” she says. For Netra, taking tribal people into confidence was a major challenge. She visits four hamlets – Karemala, Channakatte, Aadinakanave and Melukamanahalli, regularly.

“The tribal people don’t tolerate outsiders, unless they trust them. Initially, it was difficult for me to mingle with them. Now, I have become one among them. They are concerned about the forest and animals,” she says.

“Netra is committed and humble. She is hard working and is ready to take up any risk to complete her task. Even male guards are reluctant to work inside forests, but, she is serving the forest without any fear. We need more such people to protect the forests. Serving for eight long years in Bandipur is not an easy task,” a senior officer said.

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This Malenadu woman guards forest for love of nature

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