• Nature Guide
by  Raja Chatterjee & Jyotirmayi Banerjee

Wildlife tourism is booming in India and ushered in an era of newer opportunities. The Greenback benefits from it are being ploughed back into development of infrastructure of Tiger Reserves and boosting of local economy. Almost all sections of stakeholders around every Reserve are now enveloped under the philanthropic schemes of Eco Development Committees to ensure forest protection and resource utilisation. This practice, over the years, evolved into a defined segment of secondary park services inter-alia catering, transport and safari guides. The current scenario, has seen an increased influx of tiger-centric tourists, mostly unoriented, depending largely on these nature guides, who play a pivotal role in generating interest by dispensing useful information on wildlife and habitat, facilitating good sightings besides ensuring that the tourists do not out step their boundaries or cause harm to the wildlife. Mostly local youths,as trained guides are the best ambassadors to convey the message of conservation to millions. Amongst this growing band of guides, some are self made, matchless in knowledge and dedication, making in-roads into hearts of tourists. As a tribute to their contribution at the tourist-Tiger interface, THE JUNGLEES feel proud to honour here three of the frontrunners.
Mr. Krishna Kumar Tekam (34yrs.), Nature Guide, Kisli Range, Kanha Tiger Reserve,  Madhya Pradesh

Mr.Tekam is perhaps the finest guide of Kanha Tiger Reserve. In the 8 years since his joining, he has shown exemplary potential in identifying birds and spotting animals for tourists;earning him showers of praise invariably. He won almost all the competitions held during the nine-days training programme for the guides of Kanha&Pench Tiger Reserve. He is educated, articulate and is always willing to share besides smart policing on tourists on Park discipline makes him a perfect role model for the guides of KTR. Heaping praises on him the field officer says, “He has commendably lived up to the expectations of the Park Management as well as the tourists coming to this renowned wildlife protected area. He possesses all the qualities of an idea l guide for wildlife tourism. He is thoroughly professional in his job. His interpretive skills , behaviour and the knowledge of the conservation history and floral and faunal attributes of the national park are extraordinary”.

Ms. Indra Sudhakaran, (38 yrs.) Nature Guide, Periyar Tiger Reserve,  Kerala

Ms. Indra Sudhakaran from Kollampatada is the most trusted Lieutenant of Vasanthasena (Spring Army), the women protection group of Periyar Tiger Reserve , Kerala. She leads the ‘Clouds Walk’, an unique and prestigious eco-adventure programme for tourists at PTR.Indra is the most sought after wildlife guide in Periyar amongst the Indian and foreigners for she knows the forest terrain like her finger tips and has a good commandover Hindi and English. Her sheer physical strength with an insatiable thirst of knowledge on wildlife helped her explore every nook and corner of Periyar over the years. This indomitable spirit has earned her a post in the protection force for Sandal Wood forests, run by the Kollampatada II Eco Development Committee. An enlightened Indra always shares her concern in creating environmental awareness amongst the villagers. Powered by her vision and action, Vasanthasena has already bagged the coveted awards like Amrita Devi Bishnoi Wildlife Protection Award and P V Thampi award.Ms.Sudhakaran, a mother of two children, showers care equally on her own and extended families of fellow women in imbibing values of mother earth. May her tribe increase!

Mr. Jodha Singh Baiga, ( 40 yrs.) Game Watcher, Kanha Tiger Reserve,   Madhya Pradesh

Mr. Baigahas served Kanha since 1987, as a daily wager. A 3rd standard dropout though, his 25 years of game experience,hasseasoned him thoroughly in hisinterpretive knowledge of wildlife and its habitats. He is hardworking and efficient in upkeep of the Swamp Deer enclosure and is dedicated in discharging official duties. His intrinsic knowledge of the forests stems from the fact that he has grown up in the neighbouring jungle, thus gathering a first hand experience of the habits and habitats of wild animals. His skills are of immense importance for the day to day practical management of the forest range. The famous Swamp Deer enclosure of Kanha was started with a founding population of 5 animals and has multiplied to 66 animals under his careful parentage. Mr.Baiga watches over this enclosure and gives important down to earth inputs on the management of this Swamp Deer population. He has physically removed pythons about 200 times from this enclosure. Courageous, honest and brave, Mr.Jodha’s service is also taken up in special operations of wildlife protection in the tiger reserve.