Life wasn’t easy at Rajiv Gandhi National Park in Karnataka, as the region was infested with numerous criminal activities such as timber smuggling, marijuana plantation, poaching, cattle grazing, setting up of unauthorized breweries at the sanctuary. Althought the area was set up for protecting wildlife but it never achieved its purpose.
The condition of the sanctuary was going through a tough phase when KM Chinnappa joined as a forest officer in the year 1963. At that time, these activities were on the peak and nothing much was done to change the situation. However, when Chinnappa took over the charge of forest officer, he pledged to bring a dramatic change in the way the forest functioned officially.
His primary aim was to bring down these illicit practices and run the sanctuary as it was meant to be. However, it was a difficult task as there was always the risk of losing life. Soon enough, Chinnappa realized that his senior officials were also involved in these malpractices with many fickle-minded criminals. Cattle grazing was one of the biggest issues and due to large scale grazing malpractices, the forest was losing its rich heritage.
Five years later, when the laws were strictly imparted, Chinnappa got his first opportunity. He successfully filed cases against the poachers and nearly 20,000 cattle were removed from the forest vegetation. Numerous changes were made to the sanctuary. Following his achievements there was a notable change in the vegetation and the conservation was working flawlessly.
The changes like, constant surveillance of the suspicious activities, keeping the track of the wildlife population etc. Before Chinnappa came to the sanctuary all the illicit practices were in operation but the security has been increased in such a magnitude that quick actions are being taken against such practices. The Nagarhole forest which once covered only 250 sq km of area has now been expanded to staggering 640 sq km.
After all these implementations and restricted human intervention, the poachers have retreated and the hunters are nearly extinct from the forest area. Due to this, Nagarhole has been enormously flourishing with its natural inhabitants like tigers, panthers, leopards, sloth bears, jackals, wild boars, porcupines, hares, langur and varieties of deer. The simplest method to achieve this is, “All you have to do is to stop human interference. Just leave the forests alone and they will regenerate themselves,” explains Chinnappa.
However, everything comes at a cost and so did his achievements. During his struggle for the wildlife conservation, Chinnappa became an enemy of many people. He was always on the threshold of getting killed. In the year 1970, he barely escaped from the clenches of the death, when a gang armed with sticks attempted to attack him during his visit to a temple.
Chinnappa was made to surrender his licensed revolver because many people who didn’t support him addressed him as a criminal and threat. Adding to his difficulties, Chinnappa was falsely accused of a murder which forced him to spend 12 days in a prison before he was found guilt-free. In 1992, an angry mob burned his newly constructed home few days after the work was completed in Kumtoor, South Madikeri district. He fought the long battle and faced many difficulties, and unexpectedly resigned from his post in 1993.
Praveen Bhargav, one of Chinnappa’s long-time colleagues, describes him as the man of extreme physical and mental courage. It was because of Chinnappa that the latest security and patrolling system was introduced, offering three layer protections for the tiger reserve.
Some people are blessed with a divine soul and KM Chinnappa is one of them. He served as a forest ranger at Rajiv Gandhi National Park until 1993. It is truly intriguing to see one man dedicating his entire life for the sole purpose of wildlife protection. He truly sets an example and his tale can enlighten our minds.