I have already mentioned the attacks the staff face in previous blog entries, when they go to villages to resolve HEC (Human Elephant Conflict Issues) matters, as they are the people on the frontline that people blame when an elephant attacks, so I will not refer to that here.
The DWC is grossly under- resourced. To begin with it needs a school to take in School Leavers who have an aptitude, usually kids in rural areas, adjoining forests, who have grown amongst the forest and have seen wild life, cared for injured birds and animals, and in some cases as kids killed the odd turtle and eaten it. So let me remind the reader, the aptitude is important more than anything else, in assessing suitability and not political connection as at present.
AS AN ASIDE - Isn’t it ironic then that my friend Ananda, (known to one and all as Ali Ananada) who works as a day laborer on Rs750 a day, for the Kalawewa National Park Office, cannot be made permanent because he is too old, having 35 years of experience in knowing about the animals in that area, known to many wealthy wild life lovers, who he has taken to show Tuskers.
Three Cabinet Ministers have come and Gone already with the 4th now in place, namely the Field Marshall, and I have not been successful in convincing them to take him on in some capacity. He has a small kid to support and also he has given blood at least 100 times already to the hospitals at no charge!
BACK TO MY POINT
I spend at least a few days each month in some National Park and I am aware of some of the problems. For example last weekend I was in Wilpattu, with the WNPS on a field trip and the Park Warden said that he could NOT spare even one Park Ranger for the group of 25 of us in 4 jeeps. They were out on various duties, ranging from organizing the assistance of the Civil Defence/Security Force in repairing broken electric fences, helping with catching poachers encroaching on National Park land, going to Court to testify in cases against people arrested poaching or with game. Helping with catching elephants that have attacked villages for re-location etc.
They also go on the trains at night with the driver to spot elephants on the track and to make sure the train is going at a speed that can brake in case of wild animals ahead. Some work very long hours, have little rest and with night patrols are always in dangers way, not sure of poachers traps that can kill.
Just think about it, unlike other Public Servants, they are in dangers way all the time they are working. Even as a park ranger, they have the lives of the tourists in their hands, when faced with a tricky situation of a charging elephants etc.
Put simply they are grossly understaffed. An additional carder of 10,000 is need
In my humble opinion, it takes a minimum of a year to train a person fully, that is one who has the aptitude, in being a Park Ranger, bearing in mind the type of work he is required to perform. To think there is no such place when we train people at Universities and send them to do jobs that don’t use one ounce of the knowledge they have gained, is an example of mis-allocation of scarce resources by the State. So it is not that this Country does not have the resources at its disposal, and I am sure a fully funded Training College can be obtained from a Country like Japan, if they knew it was spent wisely and not wasted.
It is from this carder that we can grow the true “Protectors of the Forest” Staff to work in all Lands that come under the Forest Department and DWC and other Reservations that require skills in protecting the biodiversity to which they are the guardians appointed by us, as an insurance for the Country’s future survival.
As part of this program, they will have to go out into the villages and speak at primary schools and pre-schools to children to get them involved in the process of species protection, something that is not currently performed.
There is NO risk premium in their pay scales, so when they compare their jobs and tasks with other government servants, especially security provided to the Ministers who come to berate them from time to time, they become disillusioned with their status. A policeman makes more, without corruption.
The added benefit of employing rural kids, who live in rural areas, is not measurable. I know due to familiarity and procedure, the staff is regularly rotated from place to place, meaning they have to be away from their families for most of their working life, as they cannot move house each time he or she is posted somewhere, and that is an issue, that has to be resolved in the aptitude stage, for it not to be an issue later on. They will not ask for Colombo transfers!
In Sri Lanka there is a noticeable barrier between higher officials and lower ranks, especially in the DWC, where those who are appointed to the Park Superintendent Position come through a different system. This creates added friction as there is little understanding of the importance of their work by their superiors, who don’t even take responsibility when something goes wrong as they should.
The most important misuse of resources is when the senior officials are involved in making money out of contracts, to put new buildings, roads, and such like and don’t look at the welfare of the animals in the same way the lower ranks are compelled to, as part of their task of protecting them from harm!