These tigresses walk 25 km every day to save tigers from poachers

Two all-woman Special Tiger Protection Force teams, from the Pench and Tadoba Andhari tiger reserves in the state, will be honoured at the Sanctuary Asia Awards today for their untiring dedication to protecting the big cats

Arati Fule walks a distance of 25 km every day, so that the 28 tigers under her care at the Pench Tiger Reserve (PTR), a vital part of the big cat population in the country, do not fall prey to poachers.

Some of the STPF members at Press Club yesterday. Pic/Suresh K K
Some of the STPF members at Press Club yesterday. Pic/Suresh KK

Fule and 29 other women at Pench, and a similar all-woman team at Tadoba Andhari Tiger Reserve (TATR) both of which are in Maharashtra are part of the Special Tiger Protection Force (STPF). Their gruelling schedules involve covering long distances on foot for nearly eight hours every day to keep the animals safe.

For their untiring and outstanding work, the two teams will be honoured with the Special Tiger Award during the 2014 Sanctuary Asia Awards ceremony at the NCPA in Nariman Point today. Speaking to mid-day, Fule said, “Protecting tigers and their habitat and preventing poaching has always been my dream, and it got fulfilled after I got a chance to work with the STPF team at the Pench reserve.”

The all-woman teams at the Pench and Tadoba reserves, which have undergone training to handle the toughest of situations, begin their day at 5.30 am. At Pench, those on the first shift end their day at noon, after covering 25 km on foot.

“A group of 14 women STPF guards patrols in the morning with male guards, and the remaining team patrols in the evening. During our foot patrolling, we keep a keen eye on everything that goes on in the forest.

We check the pathways and the mud trails used by the wild animals, and also keep a tab on the activities of people staying near the tiger reserve,” said STPF Range Forest Officer Madhukar Phulpagare.

Protecting the striped ones

Called the Durga Shakti patrol
30 women at Pench Tiger Reserve work in nearly eight-hour shifts, covering 25 km on foot to protect the tigers in their care from poachers. Part of the Special Tiger Protection Force, members of this team and another all-woman team at Tadoba Andhari Tiger Reserve will be honoured with the Special Tiger Award during the 2014 Sanctuary Asia Awards at NCPA today.

In October, STPF member S D Shendre of the Pench Tiger Reserve, one of the male guards who accompanies the all-woman team, displayed exemplary courage and dedication when he confronted two gun-toting poachers unarmed.

Despite being shot at and taking a bullet to the collarbone, Shendre ensured that the poachers were arrested. He walked 2 km after being shot at, and waited for two hours for medical aid to arrive at the closest protection hut. Shendre will get a special mention during the awards.

Other awardees
Mumbai-based researchers Rajesh Sanap and Zeeshan Mirza will receive the Wildlife Service Award for the discovery of 23 species of lizards, scorpions and spiders. Isaac Kehimkar, widely referred to as India’s Butterfly Man, will receive the Green Teacher Award. Isaac is also the author of two comprehensive field.
Guides: Common Indian Wildflowers and the Book of Indian Butterflies.

Pench Reserve
28 tigers (including five cubs)

Tadoba Reserve
72 tigers (excluding cubs)

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