Life & Style

“The tiger sees me daily”

Sreenivasan K was recognised by the Government for his knowledge and efforts at tiger monitoring in the Parambikulam Tiger Reserve

“I cannot express my happiness at this recognition. I have worked very hard and it fills me with such joy that my eyes well up,” says Sreenivasan K on being recognised by the National Tiger Conservation Authority (NTCA), Ministry of Environment, Forest and Climate for his knowledge and efforts at tiger monitoring in the Parambikulam Tiger Reserve. He is one of the six Frontline Staff — Forester, Forest Guard, Watcher — from across India who was feted.

Nicknamed Tiger Sreeni, he was born and raised in the forests of Parambikulam, where he lives with his wife and three children. As a child, Sreenivasan would accompany his father who was a mahout and explored the forests thus.

Vysak Sasikumar, Deputy Director, IFS, Parambikulam Tiger Reserve says, “ Sreeni belongs to the Malasar group, one of the four tribal communities in the hills, and has been working with us for the past 20 years. He began as a watcher and assisted forest staff in patrolling.”

Ten years ago the forest department began scientific wildlife management and constituted a tiger monitoring team of 13 members, all of whom belong to the tribes from the area. Sreeni was a part of this as his knowledge of reading landscape was exceptional.

“Tiger monitoring is a long-term study on the population dynamics of the tiger. Earlier the pug mark method was followed but it was unscientific. The Wildlife Institute in Dehradun formulated a methodology that is based on a grid system. The entire forest is divided into grids and the frequency of tiger sightings in the grids is caught on camera. Srinivasan has this expertise,” says Vysak.

Sreeni says that he has sighted tigers nearly 2,000 times. After a Divisional Forest Officer gifted him a camera in 2010, he was able to shoot the tigers and provide evidence. One of his most dramatic photos is of five tigers in a single frame.

His expertise also makes him the most sought-after guide by research scholars who come to the forest for in-depth study. He is also a teacher in the Nature Camps, a residential programme for schools by the Government of Kerala.

Shefiq Basheer Ahammed, Joint RTO and wildlife photographer, has always chosen Sreeni to be his guide in the wild, for the last 15 years. “He knows each every nook and cranny of Parambikulam and has extra knowledge about animal population,” says Shefiq adding that Sreeni knows the sounds of the forest — of an approaching animal, a leopard or a tiger nearby.

Shefiq recalls an incident when he was saved from a tusker only because of a timely warning by Sreeni. “It was a misty morning and visibility was poor. Generally, when a tusker walks, its flapping ears brush against the leaves and there’s some sound. This time it was very quiet but Sreeni sensed the animal and asked me to step away. Had I not paid heed I would not be alive.”

Shefiq vouches that tigers in the forest know Sreeni well. “If it was another the tigers would attack but for him they stay calm and almost pose. That’s how I shoot them.”

Of his relationship with the tiger, the 38-year-old Sreeni says, “In a 15-day field trip I may see the tiger roughly four to five times but the tiger sees me daily; he knows me and knows that I am no threat to him.”

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Printable version | Mar 30, 2020 1:22:23 PM | https://www.thehindu.com/life-and-style/sreenivasan-k-and-his-tiger-monitoring-skills/article31118571.ece

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