Alongside poachers, illegal timber smugglers and destructive tourists, the T.N. Forest Department now faces a new challenge – YouTubers. Over the past few years, forest divisions across the State, including in the Nilgiris, have had to contend with cracking down on vloggers trespassing into eco-sensitive, reserved forests, putting both themselves as well as native wildlife at risk.
On Monday, February 12, 2024, a YouTube channel, ‘Cherry Vlogs,’ with 13.9 lakh followers at the time of writing, released a 27-minute vlog of vloggers not only trespassing into a reserved forest in the Nilgiris forest division, but also riding motorcycles off-road in the forest and using drones to capture aerial footage of their surroundings.
Local Forest Department officials said that a few of the men seen in the video are believed to be local residents who helped the vloggers trespass into the forests to shoot the video. A senior official from the Tamil Nadu Forest and Wildlife Crime Control Bureau (TNFWCCB), speaking to The Hindu said that such incidents are becoming increasingly common across the State with forest divisions struggling to maintain control of the borders of their territorial divisions.
“These vloggers are completely unmindful of the potential destruction they could be causing to local ecosystems, and are also tipping off potential poachers about easily-accessible forest areas near human settlements,” said the official. “For instance, in this latest vlog, a video of a waterbody is captured using a drone camera. Such easily identifiable landmarks can tip off poachers about the location of the forest, and to the potential wildlife contained within it,” the official said, adding that trespassing, as well as shooting footage in reserved forests without prior approval from the Forest Department are offences under the Wildlife Protection Act.
N. Sadiq Ali, Founder of the Wildlife and Nature Conservation Trust (WNCT), said that strict action needs to be taken to serve as an example to deter future offenders. “Mobile patrolling also needs to be stepped up to ensure that not just vloggers, but also wildlife photographers and filmmakers without permissions do not access these areas, as they could cause serious disturbance to wildlife that could even result in negative human-animal interactions,” he said,
When contacted, District Forest Officer (Nilgiris Division), S. Gowtham, said that the Forest Department was investigating the source of the video and will take action against the persons seen in it.