14 June, 2021

The Forest Guards Of Kaziranga: Within Sniffing Distance Of Death

Since 1996, at least 42 forest staff, most of them guards, died. While one was killed by poachers, 21 succumbed to animal attacks and 10 drowned

The Forest Guards Of Kaziranga: Within Sniffing Distance Of Death

In the floodplains of the Brahmaputra, where the grass grows tall to hide predator and prey, every sound in the landscape has a tale to tell; the crack of a dry twig, the cac­ophony of hillock gibbons, the whoosh of a black-backed forktail taking off. Here, life and death is often decided in split seconds for both—wildlife that have made Kaziranga their home and humans who risk their life and limb to protect the magnificent animals. The forest is an unforgiving place and wildlife follows its own unwritten rules. And nobody knows the rules of engagement better than the forest guards of this magnificent landscape, shaped by flood and drought over millennia.

Khargeswar Gour has been twice lucky. On July 17 this year, as floods pummelled the Unesco World Heritage site, Gour was among a group of forest guards assigned to escort a rhino back to safety after it had strayed out of its habitat. By late afternoon, they were almost done with their task when Gour was charged by wild buffaloes, among the most unpredictable of all animals in the wild. Despite 10 years of...

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