Disseminated over 600 hectares, the Marayoor range is one of the most the vulnerable forests in the state where the illegal tree felling by lumberjacks continues ceaseless, so the job of these vigilant officers is risky.
Protecting the sandalwood forests of Marayoor from the onslaught of poachers and smugglers in Kerala’s Idukki district involves a huge risk to their safety and security, but these women face this danger for the forest. When Athira P Vijayan and PS Sreedevi were deployed as the Beat Forest Officers (BFO) to take care of this dreaded forest, they became the first women to take this responsibility.
Athira and Sreedevi, both engineers, are among the first batch of 40 women BFOs appointed by the Kerala government on January 1, who has been entrusted the responsibility of guarding the Kadukkathara division under Nachivayal forest station.
Their patrols have often lead to encounters with jungle beasts like wild boar, deer and wild gaur, besides looking out for dangerous poachers. Athira and Sreedevi, equipped with flashlights, batons, and walkie-talkies, begin the patrolling at 6 p.m., and it goes on until 6 a.m. next morning, braving through cold, foggy nights.
Both the women understand that the work they do, in the hunt of illegal activities being carried out in the forest, poses a significant risk to their lives. “But, what is life without challenges and adventure?” Athira added.