Chander Singh Negi
Wildlife Service Awards (2005)
Universally and fondly known as ‘Jolly Uncle’, Chander Singh Negi, joined the Forest Department in Garhwal at the age of 16, over 50 years ago, as a dakwallah, or postman. He retired in 1993 as a Deputy Ranger. He was there when the famous Hailey National Park was rechristened as the Ramganga National Park and then the Corbett National Park. He was there on the day that Project Tiger was launched from the Corbett Tiger Reserve in 1973. He is still there today, more than a decade after he was ‘put to pasture’ but, of course, he continues to work for the tiger, now with the Corbett Foundation. Jolly Uncle is utterly fearless. He has helped nab poachers including the son of a serving judge he caught poaching in the Mohan forests and some policemen who thought they were above the law. He even apprehended people from his own department who he caught poaching and as if this were not enough, he arrested a Wildlife Warden, some errant army jawans and an MLA, no less! Today, through the Corbett Foundation, he works closely with the Uttaranchal Forest Department. His job is to find cows that tigers kill outside the tiger reserve and get to them before villagers, with poison in bottles and anger in their hearts, do. When he finds a dead cow, he works with the Foundation to reach a fair compensation to the owner. He is, therefore, equally loved by the forest staff and villagers. He has often been charged by big cats defending their kills, but he believes he will never be harmed. In fact, he has saved innumerable lives among those who accompany him on his foot inspections by calming them down and asking them to hold their ground. Some say, he talks to tigers and leopards and they listen. Jolly Uncle’s are the proverbial shoulders on which researchers, forest officers and NGOs routinely stand, when doing their job. He is a friend of wild animals and part of the vital spirit of nature that we seek to protect.