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.
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.