Month Year: December 2008
WILDLIFE SERVICE AWARD
Ajjikutira Thammaiah Poovaiah joined the Karnataka Forest Department as a Forester in 1985. Having worked with the legendary K.M. Chinnappa in the Nagarahole National Park his anti-poaching skills have been specially honed and he understands the vital importance of foot patrols. Promoted as a Range Forest Officer of Kodagu in Karnataka in 1993, Poovaiah has served in remote wildlife areas including Nagarahole, Pushpagiri and Bandipur. He is a frontline wildlife protector who thinks little of taking on poaching and timber smuggling mafias often involving armed encounters. In 1997, Poovaiah led a patrol which ambushed a gang of poachers and resulted in the death of one notorious poacher. In the Bandipur Range he was part of a team of Karnataka and Kerala forest officials that busted a gang of ivory smugglers. In June 2005, he was part of an anti-poaching squad that cornered a gang of poachers and though they were fired upon, three men with guns, incriminating evidence and equipment were apprehended. In his second term at Nagarahole, in October 2005, six poachers and their weapons were captured after a long vigil and investigation. He has followed elephant poachers across the Karnataka-Kerala boundary and with help from his counterparts was able to make crucial arrests. In 2007, he apprehended a poacher who had killed a tiger using a wire snare. Apart from such tasks, Poovaiah has also played a pivotal role in the voluntary resettlement of the first 50 families from Nagarahole Tiger Reserve. Recently, after the enactment of the Forest Rights Act, attempts to encroach fresh forest lands were thwarted by him and his colleagues who foiled three determined encroachment attempts in his Range within one day. In 1999, his protection efforts were recognised by the Karnataka Tiger Conservation Project and he was presented a state level award. He was also presented the K.N. Memorial Wildlife Service Award in 2007 and his work has been recognised by the Coorg Wildlife Society. But, in his words: “My finest reward is the sight of a secure, thriving forest. That is what I live for.”
First published in: Sanctuary Asia, Vol XXVIII No. 6, December 2008.