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‘Confidence & accurate assessment skills aided me’

TreeTake is a monthly bilingual colour magazine on environment that is fully committed to serving Mother Nature with well researched, interactive and engaging articles and lots of interesting info.

‘Confidence & accurate assessment skills aided me’

I make a special mention of a case of a nation al level shooter, a resident of Meerut who was involved in wildlife crime in many states of North India and hunted wild animals like blackbucks, blue bulls, Himalayan tahr and leopards...

‘Confidence & accurate assessment skills aided me’

Selfless Souls

Aditi Sharma, Director, Nawab Wajid Ali Shah Zoological Garden, Lucknow (Lucknow Zoo), Government of Uttar Pradesh

Q:You are specially praised for the way you tackled wild animal smuggling/trade. What was your modus operandi in busting such gangs?

When your work in the field as a forester you need to create your own information system while using the information being provided by your staff. You always keep on verifying this data from various sources. Sometimes you get fake information too. But you have to be available to listen to these sources always, and then comes the skill of verifying this data because many times the information is fake. The various cases in which I acted in a very short span of time after getting the primary information about the wildlife and their parts being transported for trade are:-

•           Turtles in Amangarh, Bijnor

•           Star Tortoise in Meerut

•          Many rescue operations of Indian birds in Meerut and made all possible efforts to send the culprits behind the bars. I make a special mention of a case of a nation al level shooter, a resident of Meerut who was involved in wildlife crime in many states of North India and hunted wild animals like blackbucks, blue bulls, Himalayan tahr and leopards. We could not rescue any animal in this case but seized 112 kg of wild meat, hides and skins etc.

Q: How challenging is it to free forest land from encroachers? What major obstacles you face and how did you overcome them?

Encroachment eviction of forest land is a tricky job, sometimes you feel situation has gone out of hand. At that time, your confidence, presence of mind and support of your field staff play a very important role. Every time I lead the encroachment eviction drive, it gives me a learning lesson. Encroachment eviction drives need a thorough homework. Before going to the field for execution of your plans, the documents and maps need to be scrutinised well. Thanks to the present-day technology that helps us in identifying the spots on cadastral maps and also on ground. The major obstacle is to get the authenticated documents, verification of these documents. Because, people who have encroached the forest lands will present the revenue records and forest department have the forest settlement data. We as foresters are not the custodians of revenue records. But I was lucky enough to have support from revenue department officials, from lekhpals to the senior most officers of the districts.   

Q: Your contribution to various plantation drives has been commendable. Shed some light on what made you stand apart.

Creating good plantation is one of the major works being done by the field foresters; it is a highly technical job. To create exemplary plantation, it takes continuous working for two years. A good plantation depends on how the plantation techniques are followed and executed which starts from the seed collection from good mother plant to properly following the nursery techniques. Advance soil work and then the plantation and its maintenance. These techniques are very intensive and strictly depend on time. If you miss the right time of any operation the whole effort will be wasteful. There are various books which one can follow to learn these techniques and more than this we foresters are being trained in our respective institutes about this. I feel so happy and contended revisiting those beautiful and successful plantations in Gangetic plains under Namami Gange Scheme.

Q: Now as Director, Lucknow Zoo what are your plans for the welfare of its inmates and betterment of the zoo?

As a zoo director one gets to work on many verticals at a time. Major verticals are visitor management, animal nutrition and upkeep, animal health, development and maintenance of zoo, garden & facade management, grievance redressal, conservation awareness and many more. Being a director of a zoo like Lucknow zoo you always need to be on your toes. Your zoo is situated in the heart of the capital city, for any good or bad you are thoroughly appreciated and criticized too. If you talk about the plans for the welfare of the inmates, trying to give the animals bigger space and that too with the near natural conditions. Zoo is a place where you need to create new things. We are planning to upgrade the children park area, 3D hall and entrance area. The public conveniences (washrooms & drinking water) and maintenance of cleanliness are the most important in a public place like zoo where visitors spend 2-3 hours outdoor, are my priority.

Q: What do you think about ever-increasing man-animal conflicts and how you managed such situations in your time?

A large population resides on the forest fringes. People living on the fringes or far into forests are dependent on them. The people on fringes go to forests for fuelwood collection, grazing of cattle etc. Agriculture is being practiced on the borders of forests which are house to wild animals. But animals don’t recognise these borders. The sugarcane gives these animals a feel of tall grasses. These animals (leopards, tigers, elephants and other herbivores) come out and suddenly get in confrontation with humans. When some negative interaction between these animals and humans happens, we call it human wildlife conflict. These conflicting situations are on rise with the increasing population of the country. People suffer the loss of life and property due to these conflicts. These situations become more complicated when wild animals enter the human habitation. Department of forest and wildlife has the responsibility of rescuing these wandering wild animals, keeping the animals and humas safe.

Q: Share some of your experiences of rescue operations under conflict situations.

During my tenures as field officer, I got many opportunities to lead the rescue operations of wildlife. You may have been part of many rescue operations but let me tell you that every situation is unique. There are thousands of people in the form of a huge mob wanting to have a look of the animal, animal under acute stress making it more dangerous, lack of resources and so on. In one of the elephant rescue operations, I remember, the animal was in the Musth. It was confined in a school building and was furious. My team managed all the resources including the tranquilising team. But it was not easy. Suddenly, the elephant raised its trunk and placed the front feet on the dilapidated boundary wall. There were thousands of people standing beside the wall outside the school campus. We had arranged a fire extinguisher vehicle on the spot. I asked the man on the vehicle to release the water with maximum gush on the forehead of the elephant and the animal retracted and later tranquilized and rescued. Those 50 seconds was the most difficult to handle. In various leopard rescue operations, the most difficult part was to keep the humans safe. In one of the operations, leopard was on the 1st floor of a college building at a time when the college was full of its students. The situation demanded the rescue of students before rescuing the animal under conflict. In another situation, the leopard was in the drawing room of a house with its habitants locked in the kitchen which neither had a window nor a ventilator. Again, we rescued the humans first by creating a big hole in the neighbour’s wall which was the most difficult part of this operation. We were breaking the wall without having any idea about the alignment of sanitary and electrical fittings. Leading a tiger rescue operation in a district like Etah in UP, where people hadn’t ever seen a jungle cat was more of mob management operation rather than rescue operation of a wild animal. In all such operations, the most important things were the preassessment of the requirements and resources while we were on the way and trying to reach the spot and making suitable arrangements. Another important thing was coordination with administration, police and giving right information to media so that panic was not created. With God’s grace, support of my staff and guidance of the seniors, my teams successfully executed many of such operations. And yes, confidence plays an important role.

Q: Message to our readers.

Forest department is working to keep this earth green and maintain its biodiversity. But it’s a herculean task which needs the support from all walks of life. We, the citizens of this country, are duty bound “to value, protect and improve the natural environment including forests, lakes, rivers and wildlife, and to have compassion for living creatures” by the fundamental duties defined in the Indian Constitution.



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