NOTE: This is a guest post from Jose Louies, Head of Department, Guardians of the Wild, Wildlife Trust of India.
Mohammad Hasen Ali (inset) and his team was patrolling their beat in Rajiv Gandhi Orang National Park in Assam, India at about 2.30 am in 2010, when they encountered a gang of rhino poachers. Shots were fired and the poachers made good their escape leaving behind a wounded Hasen Ali. Aliís team rushed him to the nearest medical facility but he was declared dead on arrival. Ali is survived by his wife, Rabia Khatun, his aged parents and six children (two daughters and four sons). He was the only earning member in the family.
Almost every day, India’s forest guards face this and other harsh realities while protecting the country’s wildlife. In addition to adverse field conditions and chance encounters with animals, they also often find themselves exchanging fire with much better-armed criminals. In many cases (as with Ali), the sole breadwinners in their families, their difficulties aggravate in case of permanent injuries or even death during these encounters, affecting their morale while carrying out their duties.
Aliís family received $2000 as terminal benefit facilitated through Wildlife Trust of India (WTI)ís Guardians of the Wild (Van Rakshak Project) that runs a unique, non-bureaucratic Group Accident Insurance Scheme for front-line forest guards across the country. Ali was among the 18,000 forest guards insured under this scheme. While the financial relief is but a small token to honor his sacrifice, the insurance scheme will give thousands of forest guards like Hasen Ali a sense of security and motivation to provide better protection to wildlife in India.
Besides this critically important Insurance Scheme, WTIís Guardians of the Wild project also trains and equips front-line forest staff across the country to combat wildlife crime. More than 8,600 front-line forest staff members from over 100 protected areas and more than 25 other wildlife areas have been trained under this project till date.
To learn more about the Guardians of the Wild (Van Rakshak) Project, visit their website.
Photo by Wildlife Trust of India