Chosen as 'Picture of the Week'
Frontline forest staff do a dangerous and difficult job everyday. But unless there are urgent and systemic changes in the way they are led, trained, equipped and motivated, poachers will continue to have the upper hand.
Frontline staff — Forest Guards and Watchers — are the most vital link in the forest protection chain, but they are also the most neglected. They are lauded as “our unsung heroes” in media articles, and, occasionally, one or two a year are given awards at glittering ceremonies. But their lot on the ground remains the same year after year. While more and more posts that suck up tax payer money are created at the top echelons of state Forest Departments, the ‘invisible’ frontline staff languish with little encouragement, leadership, facilities, training or pay. In most states they are still expected to do a difficult and dangerous job day after day without proper arms, footwear, torchlights, wireless equipment and even clean drinking water. Is it any wonder that our forests are so vulnerable to poachers and that illegal trade in wildlife is growing alarmingly? When will Forest Departments recognise that forest protection needs complete revamping?