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Heroes of Save Our Tigers Campaign

E.A Kuttappan, Head Mahout (Retired)of Bandhavgarh in Madhya Pradesh: Kuttapan, the head mahout of Bandhavgarh, joined as a young boy and today at 55, is one of India's finest tiger trackers. He no longer takes visitors out because the park management has deputed him entirely to anti-poaching and habitat management work.

In the tourist season, after a hard day's work, mahouts often have to do double duty by taking a rested animal out on anti-poaching patrol. This man-animal routine continues even in the monsoon when the park is closed and wildlife is at its most vulnerable. Mahouts have the opportunity to observe wildlife in the raw - tigresses with cubs, male tigers clashing for supremacy, new births in the forest, and, of course, the tragedy of deaths they must constantly monitor. In Kuttapan's case, most such incidents have been recorded on film, making him one of India's most accomplished wildlife photographers.

But he discounts this aspect of his work. 'I am part of a larger team. We are a family and our elephants are our children. We mahouts are the luckiest people on earth because despite the dangers, ours is a job that brings us the respect of the highest in the land. At one time, it was the maharajas who valued us, today Prime Ministers and the rich and famous depend on us to escort them through the forest,' added Kuttappan.

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