More than 20 Forest personnel of Nagarahole National Park are COVID infected: DCF
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More than 20 Forest personnel of Nagarahole National Park are COVID infected: DCF

May 18, 2021

Hunsur: There a total of 605 Forest staff coming under eight ranges of Nagarahole National Park and the Office of Deputy Conservator of Forests (DCF) at Hunsur, out of whom only 313 have been vaccinated and the remaining 292 personnel are yet to be vaccinated. 

Out of the 151 staff serving in Anechowkur Forest Range, only three have been vaccinated, while 148 are still waiting for jabs. The situation is no different in other Ranges as none of the 55 staff in Antharasanthe Range have been vaccinated, while only 4 out of 91 in Hunsur  Range have received jabs. Also, only four of the nine staff  attached to  Social Forestry Scheme in Hunsur and H.D. Kote taluks, have been administered vaccination. Twenty of the 40 staff in Hunsur Division have been vaccinated, which means that 50 percent of the staff are yet to get jabs.

The four month period from February to May is the most challenging for forest staff as they have to deal with Forest fires, wild animal attacks, poachers etc. This is also the period which witnesses man-animal conflicts the most. Also, there are many other challenges such as ensuring water availability for wild animals, tackling forest crimes  and the precautionary  measures to be taken ahead of monsoon.

It is the Watchers, Foresters and other lower rank personnel who will be in the forefront of facing these challenges and as such they are always exposed to risks. Working under such strenuous conditions, more than 20 personnel have contracted the deadly virus. With their fellow personnel contracting the virus, the officers are now a worried lot.

Meanwhile, the infections have had an impact on trapping of wild animals like leopard and tiger, which are causing  scare among residents in villages along the forest borders. Although a tiger was spotted in Veeranahosahalli Range more than 10 days ago, the Forest personnel had failed in trapping the tiger, as some of the staff got infected midway through the operation. 

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The Department had launched a combing operation using tamed elephants to nab the elusive tiger. But unfortunately, a total of 5 personnel, including 3 from Thithimathi STPF platoon and 2 of Handpost STPF platoon have tested positive. Besides, 4 personnel at Veeranahosahalli, 7 at Anechowkur, 2 at Nagarahole and one each at Metikuppe and Antharasanthe have tested positive for the virus.

With several staff getting infected, the National–level IFS Officers’ Association has written to the Government on May 14 urging it to consider Forest personnel too as COVID frontline warriors. 

Here in Karnataka, the State’s Principal Conservator of Forests Sanjay Mohan has written to the Government regarding the same. This apart, Forest Minister Aravind Limbavali has written to the Health Minister to prioritise vaccination of Forest personnel. 

DCF Mahesh Kumar

Nagarahole National Park DCF Mahesh Kumar said that Forest staff are risking their lives for conserving our forests. Noting that it is the responsibility of the Department to ensure safety of staff,  he said that the Government must consider the Forest staff too as frontline warriors and vaccinate them on a priority.

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