The Will of ‘One’

All of aspire to reach the pinnacle of success but are we willing to pay the price to reach such heights. Most success stories have tremendous struggle and often heart break behind them. Often it feels like we may not even get the success we have worked so hard for. However at the end of the day, we should be able to look into the mirror and say “ I did the very best I could”…the will is the most important element of success

Hunting was a way of life in the verdant forests and foothills of the Western Ghats in Karnataka’s Coorg area. It was an integral part of tradition, folklore, manhood, sport, food and commerce. From poor, forest-dwelling tribesmen to the flamboyant royalty and courtiers in bustling Mysore, everyone loved hunting. But one man stood tall to end this way of life. His name is K.M.Chinnappa.

In 1967, he joined the Nagarhole National Park as a forester. The park was in ruins. Hunting had taken its toll. Poachers hunted tigers for their skin; elephants for their tusks. Timber logging was a thriving mafia business. Sandalwood smugglers roamed with abandon. Wild life protection laws were weak and the Forest Department concentrated on logging, misguidedly uprooting the diversity of natural vegetation to replace them with the monocultures of teak. Rued Chinnappa: “If this devastation continued, I was dead certain that there would be no wildlife left in Nagarhole in 30 years.”

He became a one-man army to reverse this process. And he succeeded. In less than a quarter of a century, Nagarhole revived, expanding from a 250 sq km part to 640 sq kms. The poachers have retreated, the encroachers have gone and the hunters are virtually extinct, restoring Nagarhole to its rightful inhabitants – tigers, panthers, leopards, sloth bears, jackals, wild boars, porcupines, hares, langur and varieties of deer. In the bad old days, tigers had to roam 200 sq kms before they could find prey. Now they can find it within 12 sq kms.

Chinnappa used his immense knowledge of forest trails, tracking spoor, jungle craft, fabled night vision and stealth maneuvers to ambush the poachers and hunters. Chinnappa paid a high personal price to fulfil his mission to safeguard Nagarhole. He was arrested, jailed, transferred. His home was burned down. But he has no regrets.

In 1993 he retired prematurely from the Forest Department and started his NGO, the Nagarhole Wildlife Conservation Education Project to educate the local people and especially the children on the need to protect the environment. Chinnappa’s accomplishments are all the more laudable because they were won against the stiffest odds. He endured setbacks, difficulties, threats, attacks, vilification, arrests and court cases. But, remarkably, he has emerged unscathed, his innocence, courage, dedication, honour and optimism intact. Through all his trials and tribulations, one thing remained undiminished: his sheer will to save the forests. With deep conviction he says: “If you have the will, you can do wonders.”

Today, Chinnappa derives enormous satisfaction from the guns – the yesteryear symbol of manhood – that lie rusting in many a Coorgi home. Cheering the end of that bygone era are the sights and sounds of a promising new life, symbolized by the swaying foliage and barking deer.

Source:,  Jan 28, 2013