John Wakefield, the torchbearer of Karnataka's first eco-tourism project — the Kabini River Lodge on the banks of the Kabini at Karapur in Mysore district — passed away at the Kabini lodge on Monday.
Mr. Wakefield (95), fondly known as ‘Papa,' died of age-related illness. His daughter Jackey was with him when the end came around 10.45 a.m., according to sources at the lodge.
Mr. Wakefield was hospitalised in Bangalore for over a month and was brought back to the Kabini lodge a few days ago on his request. The funeral will take place at Karapur on Tuesday at 11 a.m., the sources said.
Mr. Wakefield used to share his “jungle tales” with visitors, who included many international guests. He was the brand ambassador of Jungle Lodges and Resorts (JLR) and was instrumental in the success of its eco-tourism projects.
‘Papa' lived in Karapur for three decades and promoted wildlife conservation, sensitising visitors to the importance of protecting forest wealth and wild animals.
Son of the former manager of the Maharaja of Tikarey in Bihar, Mr. Wakefield came to Karnataka as the representative of Tiger Tops Jungle Lodge (TTJL) — a wildlife resort with its headquarters in Nepal — to set up a jungle lodge at Nagarahole on the invitation of late Chief Minister R. Gundu Rao., who was impressed with his stay at the Tiger Tops lodge in Nepal.
With the declaration of Nagarahole as a national park, the idea of setting up a lodge inside the forests was dropped. Instead, the erstwhile hunting lodge of the Maharaja of Mysore at Karapur, known as the Kabini River Lodge, was developed as a joint venture of the Government of Karnataka and Tiger Tops.
After Tiger Tops pulled out of the project, the State government established JLR to run the Kabini resort, which has been rated as the world's fifth best wildlife resort.
Mr. Wakefield, who was born in Gaya, Bihar, on March 21, 1916, spent a large part of his life in the forests. After leaving the Army in 1954, he moved to Calcutta (now Kolkata) and worked there until 1964. He was the resident director, Kabini River Lodge, since its inception.