BENGALURU: The appointment of honorary wildlife wardens in Karnataka has been riddled with controversy as preference is given to non-experts and influential people, say wildlife activists.
With the names of honorary wildlife wardens for 2016 expected to be released soon, activists are apprehensive about this year’s list too.
Forest Minister Ramanath Rai told Express, “We have been receiving names from various districts for these posts. The selection will be done based on recommendations of the Chief Wildlife Warden... Our aim is to select people who have an interest in wildlife protection so that they too can contribute to conservation activities. However, whoever is selected, even if it is based on Central guidelines, we will be criticised.”
In 2014, 30 honorary wildlife wardens were appointed for 25 districts for two years as per the provisions of the Wildlife Protection Act (WPA). Their duties include assisting the forest department in controlling clandestine trading, poaching and hunting of wildlife.
As per the WPA, people who have an interest and the capacity to render help to the cause of wildlife should be appointed. However, activists say this has never happened as people close to politicians, friends of minister’s children, relatives of legislators and party workers are appointed to further their own cause.
An activist from Belagavi says, “Most wardens who are selected do not have any real interest in wildlife conservation and just occupy the post for the sake of safari and photo opportunities. Such people are of no use to wildlife.”
Dr A N Yellappa Reddy, former special secretary, Environment and Forests, opines that appointments have been politicised. “Nowadays, the criteria for selection has been put into the dustbin. People with no knowledge or background are selected. The central guidelines clearly recommend subject specialists with passion for conservation and interest in taking up awareness campaigns. Even in national and state wildlife boards, film and sports celebrities like Shah Rukh Khan and Anil Kumble were selected. People who want easy accessibility to forest areas and reserves make it to the list.”
G Veeresh, wildlife conservationist from Chikkamagaluru, elaborates, “This post should be given to those working in the field and who have been helping in forest conservation for a long time. In the 2014 appointments, some of them were involved in non-forestry activities like building resorts in sanctuary limits and in reserve forest areas. This time again, the list is being finalised and lobbying has started.”