Aug 082013

A visit to the Anti Poaching Camp- Bandipur Tiger Reserve

As part of our Eco Volunteer Training program we were to visit an Anti Poaching Camp in the Bandipur Tiger Reserve. I will not repeat here why anti poaching camps are needed, we all know we have only about 2500 tigers left in the wild and our apex predator is in great danger from organized poaching camps to man animal conflict leading to casualties on both the side. We humans forgetting totally that the tigers were living in the jungle before humans started encroaching and dividing Tiger territory.

Elephant proof trench anti poaching camp bandipur tiger reserve

Note the Elephant Proof Trench With Small Plank

Our visit to Anti poaching camp in Bandipur Tiger reserve was full of pleasant surprises, as we were going on a path where tourists are not allowed we were lucky to see some really beautiful wild animals.  There was Gaur or Indian Bisons, Elephants, Sāmbhar, Barking deer, Cheetal a sloth bear and numerous birds like Brown fishing owl, kingfisher, flame back woodpecker, peacocks, spotted ducks. But as these animals are not used to human presence, they were very shy and tough to photograph.

Wild Elephants on road Anti Poaching Camp Bandipur Tiger Reserve

These Wild Elephants were crossing path less than 200 meters from the camp

The Anti Poaching Camps are deep inside the tiger reserve and are typically manned by 1-3 staff members who are locals and are given jobs with the forest department.

Mind you this is deep inside tiger and elephant territory and you are at mercy of wild animals to not attack you. But deep inside the jungle the attacks by wild animals are rare as both humans and animals have no conflict. It is on the boundaries and buffer zone of the Tiger reserve the man animal conflict take place.

Forest Guard Bandipur Tiger Reserve

Simple but functional Anti Poaching Camp in Bandipur Tiger Reserve

We met Raju the staff member of the Anti Poaching camp we visited. He was alone in the camp as his colleague has gone for some work.  Raju could speak only Kannada and took help from another volunteer in our group to communicate with him.

A few leanings from our interaction with Raju the forest guard who lives deep inside the jungle in the Anti poaching camp in Bandipur Tiger Reserve.

  • The day starts with sunrise and ends with sunset, actual time on a watch has little meaning as deep inside jungle you work as per the availability of sunlight.
  • They have Walky-talky but most of the time they are out of spare parts or batteries and hence not much use.
  • Each forest guard patrols about 15-20 KM of territory inside the Forest reserve and records all animals he sees. Earlier this was done in a register, but now the Karnataka forest department is experimenting with Android phones and tablets, with picture based GUI for the forest guard to add the information without being literate. This is what I call real Jugaad innovation the Indian way, and Karnataka forest department must be one of the first in the world to use this technology to record animal sightings. These phones/Tabs are GPS enabled so it helps in knowing the exact location of the animal. So if the guard is filling a false report sitting in his room he will be caught easily. Man do I love technology or what?

     kitchen in forest bandipur tiger reserve

    The Simple Kitchen in Anti Poaching Camp

  • The guards stay in the Anti Poaching Camp for about 13-15 days before they go for a leave for 2 days.  The small hut kind of camp they lived was very basic with just a cement slab as bed and a small thatched kitchen in the back side.
  • A Tanker brings water once every 15 days, but they also do rain water harvesting to collect drinking water.

    Rain Water Harvesting From Roof

    Rain Water Harvesting for drinking water

  • Forest department also supplies some staples like rice, deal, spices and oil to them to cook and eat.
  • As the camp is deep in Elephant territory, it is surrounded by a deep elephant proof trench so that elephants do not attack the camp. There is a small wooden plank on the trench which is not strong enough to take the weight of even a malnourished elephant, but that would be rare in the lush green Bandipur Tiger reserve.

    Forest Guard Bandipur Tiger Reserve

    Raju- The Forest Guard we met

  • There is some electricity produced using solar panels on the roof of the anti poaching camp, but for all practical purposes Sunlight is the source of light for the guards in the Anti poaching camp.
  • One of the key part of duty of the forest guard is to report any unusual activity to headquarters like any dead animal, any cut tree, any humans who are not supposed to be in the jungle etc.
  • In the night the guards are literally at the mercy of Vandevta or the Jungle gods, as any wild animal may decide to investigate what is happening in the Anti Poaching camp. The only defence available with the guard is a torch that they use to scare animals away and some prayers.
  • For all this they are paid a princely sum of around 280 odd rupees per day if they are daily wagers and slightly more if they are on payroll of the department.

    Gaur Indian Bison

    This Bison was not used to seeing humans – saw him about 100 meters from Camp site

Other posts in Eco Volunteer Training Program series are  here:

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Click here for all posts in Bandipur and Eco Volunteer Training program

UPDATE: Please check here for next batch of Eco Volunteer Training

In my second phase of the training I may be spending a night in the Anti Poaching camp, and will write more in detail about the same. Keep watching this space.

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