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Search for forest heroes

In 2007, P.D. Majhi, who worked as a boatman for the forest department, was gunned down as he chased poachers through Pakke wildlife sanctuary in Arunachal Pradesh. In 2006, 59-year-old forest guard Ram Dayal Srivas was killed by the Kardu Singh Mogia gang. Srivas had helped to put members of the gang behind bars for poaching tigers in the Palpur Kuno sanctuary in Madhya Pradesh.

About 4,000 people are in charge of protecting the wildlife in 37 tiger reserves in the country (in 1972, when Project Tiger was launched, there were 11 reserves). With their departments often ill-equipped and under-staffed, they battle tremendous odds.

NGO The Junglees, which works on wildlife conservation, has been giving awards to such people for the last four years. On June 10, the group opened nominations for the fifth Green Guard Awards at the American Center.

“The idea of the awards came about after we heard two forest guards were killed in Betla sanctuary in 1998 on their way to arrest poachers. They were casual employees who were not entitled to pension benefits or compensation. We collected some money that was put into a trust to help their families,” said Raja Chatterjee, secretary of The Junglees.

The awards, given in 38 categories, include anti-poaching work, media reporting on wildlife issues, best protected tiger reserve and corporate responsibility towards wildlife.

The team that arrested Czech entomologist Petr Svacha and his associate Emil Kucera for illegally collecting butterflies, beetles and larvae in Singalila National Park, has won a nomination.

The prizes include Rs 50,000 for individuals and equipment for teams, which can be used by wildlife officials on duty, said Chatterjee. They include night vision binoculars, rechargeable torches, dart guns and rucksacks. This year bikes for patrolling will also be given.

The session also included the screening of the documentary Big Cats, on tiger farming in China.

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