Wildlife Service Awards 2023
Assistant Forester, defender, advocate for wildlife
Seema Meena is an Assistant Forester working to protect the miracle that is the Ranthambhore Tiger Reserve in Rajasthan. Posted in the core area, together with her frontline staff, she walks the forest to monitor the wild species in her charge, including tigers. She has been part of several operations that resulted in poachers being apprehended and taken to court. Though she could have any ‘safe’ job after her MA degree, she chose to be a part of the army of men and women putting their lives on line to save the forest.
Seema joined the department in April 2011 as part of the elite Flying Squad. This was her training ground, where she learnt from experienced seniors. As part of the Forest Department, she has come face to face with, and stopped, illegal activities in the forest such as tree felling, hunting, mining, encroachment, and fought forest fires. In the face of climate change and outbreaks of zoonotic diseases, the work done by wildlife rangers like Seema is of great, if little acknowledged, importance. Besides, studies have revealed that female rangers tend to diffuse difficult conflict situations better, without the use of force.
Over the past 12 years, Seema has been a part of several operations to track and capture poachers; she has also filed FIRs and escorted those she arrested to court. Since 2019, she has been in charge of the Neemchouki Forest Check Post, which covers three beats, necessitating patrolling several kilometres through forests over rough terrain and monitoring tiger movement day and night. Danger from conflicts with animals, or aggressive intruders comes with the job. Seema has broken glass ceilings and demonstrated how indispensable women guards are to the Forest Department.
The life of frontline staff is tough enough, but even today women are often exposed to stereotypical disapproval from their community. Seema’s persistence and dedication is a personal success for her, her supportive family, and her community. She is an example and inspiration to other young women of many villages that surround Ranthambhore. Aware that she has become a recognised figure, she interacts with young children, including those who are
part of the education and awareness drives undertaken in villages and schools under the tutelage of Sanctuary’s Kids for Tigers Coordinator Govardhan Meena and other accomplished naturalists.
Individuals such as Seema Meena are the critical load-bearing pillars destined to support successful wildlife conservation efforts long into the future. Ranthambhore is far more secure today, and the relationship between people and parks is improving measurably because of her dedication, understanding and defence of the wild.
Future generations will recognise her service as the finest form of patriotism, and for this we honour her.