Volunteers Curb Hunting During Karnataka Festival
Sanctuary’s Mud on Boots Project Leader Ashwin Gurusrikar along with his volunteers from the Vanodaya Wildlife Trust plays a crucial role in supporting the Karnataka Forest Department and curbing instances of poaching during the festival of Ugadi in Karnataka.
Every year, in the spring months of March or April, the people of Karnataka celebrate the beginning of a New Year as per the lunisolar calendar. This festival of Ugadi sees people from all walks of life decorating their homes, wearing new clothes, exchanging gifts, and worshipping family deities. On the following day of Varshadathodku, which literally translates to “indulge in the New Year”, families savour special delicacies, many of which involve meat preparations. Unfortunately along with the preparation for this feasting comes a massive increase in the demand for wild meat from both villages that surround the Cauvery Wildlife Sanctuary as well as mega-cities like Bengaluru.
This year, in the days leading up to the festival, Sanctuary’s Mud on Boots Project Leader Ashwin Gurusrikar along with his volunteers from the Vanodaya Wildlife Trust played a crucial role in supporting the Karnataka Forest Department and curbing instances of poaching. Under Ashwin’s leadership, local village volunteers and Bengaluru-based volunteers were gathered, briefed and sent out with members of the Forest Department to patrol over 400 sq. km. of vulnerable forest boundaries where instances of hunting and forest offences have been known to occur. The volunteer support was on a strict “Observe and Inform” basis and volunteers were advised to not engage with poachers/offenders at any point. The team, along with the alert staff of the Cauvery Wildlife Sanctuary encountered several hunters in action and successfully discouraged them from harming any wildlife. The patrolling went on from dusk to dawn over a period of two days. Until a few years ago the forests would be aglow during this time due to the numerous hunting parties that would be prowling the area with their headlamps. However, thanks to the efficient patrolling by the Forest Department and volunteers, only two instances of shooting were reported this year.
Since 2012, volunteers have been conducting patrolling activities during sensitive days of the year, when the demand for wild meat spikes. They also help regulate the large number of pilgrims that enter the forest to visit temples during annual jatras. Apart from this, Vanodaya volunteers regularly participate in patrolling drives every month in order to keep a check on any illegal activities in the forest area.
"Conducting film screenings in villages around the Cauvery Wildlife Sanctuary has helped us build a network of local villagers who have become our eyes and ears on the ground. Connecting these individuals with experienced Bangalore-based volunteers to help protect the forest has turned out to be a winning combination," said Ashwin Gurusrikar of this year’s successful patrolling. Supporting the Forest Department during crucial festivals and sensitive days has boosted the morale of the field staff, and the Forest Department's collaborative approach of allowing Vanodaya's volunteers to participate in continued conservation efforts is helping wildlife rebound in the park.
Ashwin Gurusrikar is a Project Leader under Sanctuary’s Mud on Boots Project, a programme designed to empower grassroots conservationists in India. Sanctuary’s support to Ashwin has been made possible via collaboration with Sula Vineyards Pvt. Ltd. To support “mud-on-the-boots” conservationists like Ashwin, write to