The second wave of COVID-19 in India has devastated entire families with very high infection and mortality rates. In all the lockdowns imposed, frontline forest staff continue to foot-patrol their beats. Unlike most of us, they cannot work from home. In March and April 2021, we have lost at least 10 frontline forest staff besides many other conservation beacons to COVID-19. This appeal is to honour their life committed to conservation and provide immediate ex-gratia support to their next-of-kin.
Frontline forest staff often fall to attacks by wild animals or poachers. Now we are losing them to COVID-19 too. The number of deaths reported is alarming and distressing, and like always, their sacrifices remain mostly unacknowledged by many. Besides forest staff, individuals from local communities and NGOs, with exemplary service in the wildlife sector have left us too soon. And they weren't just brilliant conservationists, but also the breadwinners for their families in most cases.
Since 2000-01, IFAW-WTI have pioneered a unique 'Supplementary Accident Assurance Scheme' that brings frontline forest staff under an ex-gratia umbrella providing immediate financial aid in case of death or permanent disability on duty. In present times, the pandemic has claimed more lives than anyone expected, leaving behind dependents. The ex-gratia scheme will cover these untimely deaths of our conservation heroes and provide financial support to their families when they need it the most.
Through this initiative, we stand in solidarity with our conservation heroes and their families and provide them with support to the best of our ability. It is an effort to recognize the selfless contribution of these unsung heroes to wild India, and record their exemplary work in this field so it doesn't go unnoticed and inspires the Gen next.