Statement by Country Director of WCS India regarding FIR wrongly filed against Karnataka Forest Officers
BENGALURU, 30 January 2017: On behalf of the Wildlife Conservation Society – India, I would like to issue a statement regarding the recent FIR filed against three forest officers of the Karnataka Forest Department, Kodagu district. We understand that the FIR has been registered against the three forest officers in a case where a person was killed by a wild elephant due to a serious conflict situation. We wish to express our deepest sympathies to the bereaved family.
We are aware of the difficulties that forest officers face while dealing with such conflict situations. In many cases, officers and forest staff put their lives at risk while trying to get an escalating situation under control. We are dismayed to note that in this case, an FIR has been filed against the jurisdictional forest officers, holding them responsible for the unfortunate demise of the victim. Elephants are wide-ranging species and hence require large spaces of forest land to move and survive. Unfortunately, in Kodagu, elephant habitats are highly fragmented resulting in frequent conflict situations that sometimes lead to human mortality.
In this context, it can be extremely demoralising for the Forest Department staff if legal action is taken against them while they are doing their duty. It is deeply demotivating to see FIRs being filed against forest officers holding them responsible for ill-fated situations that are not entirely under their control.
We wish to express solidarity with the forest officers against whom the FIR has been erroneously filed. We strongly urge the Government of Karnataka to immediately withdraw the said FIR and drop all further proceedings against the officers. Further, we look up to the Karnataka Government to ensure that the morale of forest officers is kept high so that they may discharge their duties efficiently.
In future, such situations can be avoided only if the conflict is scientifically monitored and effectively mitigated. We urge the Government of Karnataka to take steps to address the same.
Wildlife Conservation Society-India Program