October 2010: Guided by the belief that conservation and community development go hand in hand, the Aranya Wildlife Trust (earlier called Vanya) works with villagers living in and around the Bandipur and Nagarahole Tiger Reserves and the Nugu Wildlife Sanctuary in Karnataka.
Aranya – aptly derived from the Sanskrit word for forest – has a small group of core members whose work is supported by a dedicated team of volunteers. Their activities focus on spreading awareness and helping villagers understand that the destruction of ecosystems has a very real and very visible socio-economic impact.
To this end, they have conducted awareness programmes and anti-poaching drives that have, till date, reached 80 villages around Nagarahole and 13 villages in Nugu. Informative posters in Kannada (the local language) have been put up at the gram panchayat and at stalls, shops and other gathering places. A key part of their work is interacting closely with farmers particularly on the issue of human-animal conflict. By giving ear to their concerns, Aranya has won over the farming community that now readily approaches them with information about poaching and information on those installing illegal electric fences around their land. Realising that most villagers have never seen the wild animals that are the focus of conservation plans, Aranya also screens wildlife films for the public to sensitise them about the varied biodiversity they share living space with.
Alarmed by the rising numbers of roadkills in the Bandipur Tiger Reserve, Aranya filed a Public Interest Litigation to impose a night ban on traffic along the NH-67 and NH-212 which pass through the reserve. In an unprecedented victory for Aranya and other conservation groups that worked on the issue of roadkills on these highways, the Karnataka High Court announced a ban on vehicular movement on these roads from 9:00 p.m. to 6:00 a.m. The group has also been working to implement an effective traffic monitoring system to reduce vehicular deaths on other roads and during the day.
The group also acts as a support structure for the Forest Department of these three parks by volunteering for fire-fighting in the summers and being available for other activities such as clean-up drives and anti-litter campaigns.
Aranya’s success can be attributed to the inherent wisdom that guides their work – rope in local communities and support and work with the Forest Department. The sweeping changes they have made can be seen first-hand. When they began work in Nagarahole, they were met with hesitation and sometimes even hostility from villagers. Today, they have won the trust of these communities who understand that working for wildlife conservation does not imply working against communities. Praveen Mahajan, one of Aranya’s members says, “Conservation is not just protecting what is left but also about working to restore what we have lost by rectifying the issues that created the original problem – lack of communication with those living closest to the forest. This can only be done by working on the ground.” Anupama Kadam echoes Mahajan’s comments, adding that my aim is to ensure that “villagers understand that protecting the forest will protect their future.”
Aranya will soon be launching a website about the organisation and its work. In the interim, they can be contacted at
for any queries.
The Aranya Wildlife Trust
No. 364, BEML Layout, 1st Stage, 2nd Main Road, Basaveshwarnagar, Bangalore – 560079.