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To tackle a manpower crisis and simultaneously create awareness about wildlife and forests, SGNP officials have decided to rope in volunteers who will assist their guards in patrolling the forest ranges

Are you an intrepid adventurer who loves roughing it out in the great wide open? Does the idea of sleeping under the stars capture your imagination? If the answer is yes, Sanjay Gandhi National Park (SGNP) has the perfect outlet for all your exploratory urges.

On the prawl: Park officials hope to sensitise the volunteers about
tree-felling, forest fires, and wildlife in SGNP, while they accompany the
guards on their nightly inspections. file pic

To help tackle an acute manpower shortage, officials at the park have decided that volunteers will be given the rare opportunity to accompany the forest department guards on their nightly recces, walking shoulder to shoulder with them during their nocturnal vigils, and helping them perform their duties.

The move aims at creating awareness about wildlife and forests among volunteers, while offering them a thrill of adventure that is otherwise elusive in the concrete jungle. It is also necessitated by the fact that there aren't enough guards to cover the length and breadth of the forest.

Speaking to MiD DAY, a senior SGNP official said, "Every night, our forest guards patrol their ranges to keep a tight vigil on activities taking place in the forests. Sometimes the number of guards falls short for the sprawling expanse of the park. In order to tackle this issue, we have decided to rope in the help of volunteers, who will assist our guards on their nocturnal walks."

At present, there are about 100 guards posted in the 104 square km expanse of the SGNP.
The number is not sufficient to cover the entire area of the forest.  But before you get ahead of yourself, remember that the guards patrol the park on foot every day, as many of the spots are out of the reach of vehicles.

"We will form teams of three, each comprising one forest guard and two volunteers. The job of the volunteer will be to follow close behind the guard and note down important observations, if any. This will also help us limit the chances of forest fires that take place inside the forest. This initiative will also help sensitise the volunteers about what to do or not do inside the premises," added the official.

The sprawling expanse of the park is divided into four ranges: the Tulsi, Krishnagiri Upavan, Yeoor and Kanheri ranges. The department will not be charging the volunteers. With this initiative, the department also hopes to sensitise people about the ill-effects of tree-felling, which is rampant within the forests. Chief Conservator of Forest and SGNP Director Sunil Limaye refused to comment on the matter.

Anand Pendharkar, wildlife expert and director of the NGO Sprouts, said, "We welcome the initiative undertaken by SGNP. I am confident that this move will help create awareness about the forest and wildlife in the minds of people. It is a commendable idea, but the forest department should run a background check on the volunteers before allowing them in."

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