Sasi Kumar T.
Month Year: December 2007
WILDLIFE SERVICE AWARD
Driven and courageous Forest Rangers like Sasi Kumar are our best hope in the fight against the ruthless illegal wildlife trade, which is taking a terrible toll on India’s tigers. He works in Wynaad, Kerala where he engages poachers on the ground. At the age of 41 years, Kumar rose from the ranks, starting out on March 1, 1985 as a guard with the Kerala Forest Department in the Kuttiyadi Range, Kozhikode district. He was subsequently transferred to the rich Meppady Forest Range in the South Wynaad Division. Over the last 12 years, he has been instrumental in detecting several cases of wildlife crime. Committed in his approach, his interest in intelligence gathering has been invaluable to Karnataka and Kerala.
Sasi Kumar goes beyond merely identifying or apprehending wildlife criminals. He helped convert a notorious elephant poacher into a forest department informer and now controls a small network of operatives which provide clues that help the department prevent crimes, not just take post facto legal action. On November 26, 2000, he was part of a team that arrested five people and seized 62.35 kg. of tusks belonging to eight elephants that were killed in the Bandipur National Park and Wynaad Wildlife Sanctuary. He also helped arrest an individual carrying three elephant tusks from Wynaad’s Batheri range. In February 2002, the forest department, supported by Kumar, arrested 11 persons with four leopard skins in the Malappuram district of Kerala. In a Wildlife Protection Society of India-assisted seizure on May 18, 2002 at Thiruvananthapuram, a team that included Sasi Kumar seized 60 kg. ivory and arrested four people, including an ivory dealer who was a repeat offender.
In June 2003, a tiger and leopard skin and a pair of tusks were seized from the Kannur Forest Division after Kumar played an undercover role as a wildlife trader. His work is fraught with danger because poachers and traders are more than willing to kill for their ill- gotten gains. In 2006, he arrested a man accused of poisoning a leopard, and another who killed a gaur in Wynaad. He is sympathetic to villagers, but this did not prevent him from arresting them for beating a leopard to death in the Meppady Forest Range.
A rare and extremely dedicated wildlife defender, Kumar’s anti-poaching efforts have won him the appreciation of official and NGOs. A popular man with his colleagues, he inspires others who work with him. By any definition, he is a hero.
First published in: Sanctuary Asia,Vol XXVII No. 6, December 2007.