Krishna Narain “KN” – A Life Cut Short
Photo: Praveen Bhargav.
In October 2006, we were trekking in the Hemis High Altitude National Park in the Trans-Himalaya. As we approached the Husing valley, KN enthusiastically told me that he sensed we would see the elusive snow leopard. We scanned the mountains intently with our binoculars, but in vain. He was disappointed and told me on the way back that he would return to Hemis again next winter. I knew he meant it. But destiny had something else in store for him and little did I realise that in just four months, I would have to write an obituary for my dear friend.
KN was only 48 when a tragic construction mishap at Camp GeeDee, the unique nature camp that he had created and nurtured near Bannerghatta National Park in Bangalore, Karnataka, snatched this dedicated wildlifer away from our conservation alliance on February 10, 2007.
I have to go back to 1978 when I first walked into his den called ‘Harry House’ in South Bangalore, which had been turned into a small rescue centre for snakes. This place very quickly became a hub for some of us interested in wildlife and nature. And at a time when hardly anyone knew what an NGO was, KN came up with the idea that we start an organisation to protect wildlife. In 1982, he co-founded Wildlife Preservation Group (WILPEG) while training to be an engineer. He was deeply involved in conservation activities from then on.
Though his job at the Indian Space Research Organisation kept him busy, he always found time for conservation. Later, he quit the job to design and manufacture high-tech animal control fencing that minimised human-wildlife conflict.
Since the mid-1980s, KN was mentored by K.M. Chinnappa who heads Wildlife First. Narain was an active volunteer participant in Wildlife Conservation Society (WCS) field research and conservation projects. On learning of KN’s untimely demise, Dr. Ullas Karanth of WCS said, “I remember with fondness that KN was one of the first few youths to volunteer his tremendous talents to field work such as line transect surveys and camera trapping in Nagarahole, a pioneering activity that inspired many others to do so.”
As an activist, he infused boundless energy and passion into conservation campaigns and deeply believed in the philosophy of strict protection of wildlife habitats. At the first opportunity, he bought a piece of agricultural land near Bannerghatta National Park with his (and his wife’s) hard-earned savings. For over five years, he battled hostile stone quarry operators and managed to keep them at bay, securing the landscape on the eastern edge of the park.
He raised funds to support frontline protection staff of the park and donated field kits to enhance their morale. He constantly motivated them to protect the area from fire and fuelwood collection. In time, the results began to show. The vegetation around the park recovered and wildlife sightings improved dramatically. Eighty nine species of trees were listed in a survey conducted last year. An avid birder, KN recorded more than 175 species, including the Yellow-throated Bulbul, now a resident in that landscape.
Photo: Praveen Bhargav.
At Camp GeeDee, visitors were exposed to the beauty of nature (including the occasional elephant and leopard) as well as serious conservation issues. Many amateur naturalists, photographers and MSc. students started frequenting the place. KN’s home and heart were always open to all.
Such was his passion for wildlife that he had even talked about parting with portions of his land to enable the expansion of wildlife corridors and had sought a note from me on how to create a community reserve.
KN never received an award, nor can his work be described as path-breaking. He was just a simple individual who doggedly soldiered on for wildlife. He lived for wildlife and constantly dreamt about securing a future for endangered species.
As I rushed to the hospital emergency room that Saturday evening and saw him lying lifeless, I barely managed to hold myself back. Many conservation organisations in Karnataka including the WCS, Wildlife First, Centre for Wildlife Studies, Wildlife Watch and a host of others with whom he was intimately associated have lost an energetic foot soldier.
By Praveen Bhargav, Trustee, Wildlife First
First published in: Sanctuary Asia, Vol. XXVII. No. 2. April 2007.