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Low-Pay High-Risk Conservation Job Opportunities

March 21, 2022



It should go without saying that endangered animal species live in the wild that is threatened by human encroachment. As the wild and available natural habitats continue to be overrun by rampant population growth, the task of protecting these creatures becomes ever more difficult.  More than half of the wild Asian elephants in the world live in India which would likely be a population somewhat more than 20,000. Many of them are in areas which are also home to wild tigers which complicates the conservation efforts. Recently, The New York Times published an article entitled Risking Their Lives, for Little Pay, To Guard India’s Forests. The protected wildlife is meant to be in sanctuaries removed from humans.  However, there is no way to effectively confine the animals or protect the crops and people who live in the same general area other than having a cadre of foresters.

Trained elephants such as the one shown below are used to track down tigers that stray off the reservation and endanger the lives of the villagers. Ironically, the largest populations of wild elephants and tigers are in the southern India sanctuary near Wayanad.  Unfortunately, the forests are interlaced with villages which creates conflicts between humans and wildlife. Moreover, the foresters face armed poachers, criminal gangs, fires, and other disasters for wages that often go unpaid as meager as they are.

Near Wayanad, in the southern India state of Kerala, a young man by the name of Mr. Bijesh T.K. armed only with a bamboo stick was looking for a tiger that had escaped from a wildlife sanctuary. Unfortunately, the tiger saw him first and attacked his neck, but he was saved by his helmet. However, the tiger settled for his arm which was permanently damaged before the tiger moved back into the bush. Bamboo sticks and firecrackers are ineffective protection for this dangerous profession. Bijesh T.K.’s mother is shown below buttoning his uniform as he cannot use his right arm.

Prior to becoming a temporary forest watcher, Bijesh T.K.’s source of income was masonry which he can no longer do. He has an income of $143 per month which causes his family of five to struggle. His hours are long as he chases away wildlife foraging for food in the nearby villages at night. Fortunately, the animals are usually elephants, boar, and deer though he is quite familiar with the damage the occasional tiger can inflict. His daytime hours involve patrolling the electric fencing which is in place to keep the elephants in check. Nonetheless, sitting around a campfire being on the lookout for dangerous big cats is not the most relaxing way to spend an evening.

Despite the danger and the long hours, as shown below, you would have to admit the visual impact of an elephant foraging for food in the jungle darkness is breathtaking. Moreover, as elephants are quite noisy when they create their own hiking paths, one usually has plenty of warning to give them a wide path. On the other hand, watch out for those tigers. In the Thai jungle many years ago, some experienced Thai jungle folk and I stumbled across a recent nocturnal tiger kill of a deer.  Fortunately, we had been sufficiently noisy to scare the tiger away.

The Wildlife Trust of India enabled Bijesh T.K. to meet his medical expenses. Have a look at the link to their activities below if you would like to lend a hand to this conservation effort.


“Foresters need to be given the same respect that our armed forces get,” said Vivek Menon, the founder of the Wildlife Trust of India, which gave Mr. Bijesh T.K. the extra money and has been pushing for  more recognition for frontline staff  members.

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