Manglu Baiga

Wildlife Service Awards (2004)

Manglu Baiga was born in the jungles of Kanha in the mid-1940s, and has spent his entire life there. The Baiga tribals are renowned for their knowledge and close association with the jungles of central India and are often referred to as ‘the children of nature’.

In 1973, when Project Tiger was announced, Kanha was one of the first tiger reserves to be declared. It was Manglu who accompanied the first Field Director, H.S. Panwar in his exploration of these meadows and mountains, necessary to develop efficient management strategies. Manglu was Panwar’s “trusted and constant companion” for many years. Though Manglu lacks a formal education, he is a person with incredible wisdom and knowledge, and an indicator of the tremendous wealth of knowledge that India’s remnant tribal cultures have to offer. He is able to perform autopsies on wild animals with breathtaking accuracy, even though he has had no training in veterinary science! Similarly, though he might be untrained in botany, his knowledge of wild plants and herbs and their uses is legendary. True to his Baiga roots, Manglu is a master tracker. His combination of knowledge and jungle lore has always kept him in demand in forested areas throughout Madhya Pradesh. Unaffected by a near-fatal encounter with a leopard in 1998, Manglu continues to use his tracking and animal identifying skills to assist the forest department. His uncanny knowledge has in fact helped the experts refine the pugmark census method. The fact that he knows Kanha and its topographical features like the back of his hand makes him an important resource in the park’s firefighting and anti-poaching team. Today, after more than 30 years of serving the park, he is an important cog in the wheel of Kanha’s management and protection machinery.