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Kudremukh Wildlife Foundation refutes allegations

By Our Staff Correspondent

MANGALORE, MAY 5. The Kudremukh Wildlife Foundation, which was raided by the Deputy Conservator of Forest, Kudremukh Wildlife Division, Anita S. Arekal, recently, has refuted the allegations made by the authority against it.

The foundation has said that all its dealings are transparent and the aspersions cast by Ms. Arekal on it are baseless.

Speaking to presspersons here on Wednesday, the coordinator of the foundation, Niren Jain, said the allegations that the organisation was not legally registered and had committed irregularities in getting funds from donors abroad besides misusing them were false.

The foundation was a legal trust registered with the Sub-Registrar, Puttur. It was established to conserve forests, wildlife and environment.

Mr. Jain said he had taken up the assignment after two years of training in wildlife biology and conservation under wildlife scientist and Director of India Programme, Wildlife Conservation Society, Ullas Karanth.

The foundation had received an average of Rs. 6 lakhs per annum from the National Fish and Wildlife Foundation for operational expenses.

The donations had been received under the Foreign Contribution Regulation Act. All reports and accounts pertaining to the donations had been submitted to donors as well as the Government and other statutory authorities. However, these documents were not submitted to the Forest Department, as it was not the relevant authority.

As part of conservation activity, the foundation had been involved with Wildlife Conservation Society in supporting non-government organisations to reduce fragmentation and to consolidate wildlife habitats in the Western Ghats. This was done through assisting local families that were isolated in revenue enclosures within the Kudremukh National Park, he said.

Efforts had been made to find alternative livelihood options on a voluntary basis.

As part of the efforts, and with the knowledge of the Forest Department and the then Deputy Conservator of Forests, Kudremukh, the foundation initiated a dialogue with eight families in Bhagawathi for their rehabilitation. A major donor of Wildlife Conservation Society, Vikram Nagaraj, supported this voluntary rehabilitation initiative.

Mr. Nagaraj was aware of the activities of the foundation and how it utilised his donations.

He said the Wildlife Conservation Society funded the eight families and the foundation did not handle these transactions. Eight cheques from Wildlife Conservation Society amounting to $ 29,272 were issued in the name of the beneficiaries on March 4, 2003 when Dr. Karanth and representatives of the Forest Department were present.

The land vacated by the villagers with their livestock was now in the custody of the Forest Department, Mr. Jain said.

On March 13, 2003, Dr. Karanth submitted a detailed report on the initiative to the Principal Secretary, Forests and other forest officers, including the Deputy Conservator of Forests, Karkala, and the Conservators of Forests, Mangalore, he added.

A video film was part of the report. He said the project had set a trend in mitigating man-animal conflict through private-public partnership with international donor support.

It could be used as a model to solve resettlement and encroachment problems in other protected areas. The initiative had been acclaimed internationally, he claimed.

Mr. Jain said the foundation intended to pursue all possible legal actions to defend itself in the matter.

He refused to comment on the recent raids conducted by Ms. Arekal saying the matter was sub-judice.

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