Opinion Piece

A QUESTION MARK ON BEAR GRYLLS’CELEBRITY STUNTS AND ‘CONSERVATION’ CLAIMS

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For millions of years, humans have strived to live and survive in extreme terrains and adverse climatic conditions prevailing on Planet Earth. This is nothing new but when TV adventurer Bear Grylls does it and that too in front of cameras with his paraphernalia of crewmen, it garners the highest TRP ratings and earnings for him and the channel but no way serves the purpose of Conservation.

When the British showman takes his ‘survival stories’ to the extreme by involving celebrities and politicians and carries out shooting schedules in core critical tiger habitats and wildlife sanctuaries, then one has to step in and question. Maybe, it brings in lots of dollars for the television channel and Bear Grylls but it does nothing to protect the few remaining fragile and vulnerable protected areas in India and across the world.

It’s not only Bear Grylls, but many other people who have tried to achieve unconquerable feats. But this man is taking his achievements to the extreme in the name of conservation and global climatic changes. Greta Thunberg has achieved a lot for conservation without doing all these or put herself on the idiot box indiscriminately unlike Grylls. His shows are purely for entertainment and not for conservation or even learning anything from them.

Here is a so-called conservationist who has had his very terrifying and disgusting moments and eaten all kinds of food ranging from snakes to giant worms in the wild. Eating giant larvae spider and what not and stealing eggs from nesting birds in no way promotes conservation and how does he get away with killing wildlife for commercial gains? Do they have legal permissions?

Be it Corbett National Park or Bandipur/Nagarhole Tiger Reserves in India – they are critical habitats for tigers/elephants and other big and small herbivores and carnivores. Their conservation and protection in the background of continuing man-animal conflict/forest encroachments and fragmentation of corridors has been the biggest challenge for conservationists and genuine forest officials.

If Bear Grylls truly cared for the status of our environment, he should have completed his celebrity episodes in November-December but without disturbing the fragile habitat. Further his crew, on his instruction, chose an area in Bandipur where tigers frequently show up. If Grylls is the conservationist that he claims to be he should have known he was blatantly violating the prevailing regulations in a critical tiger habitat. This clearly shows how Grylls’ focus is not on environment, forest, wildlife, water conservation but clearly on business and show time.

Imagine! This man from England is teaching us how to survive during famine/ drought/ floods! Didn’t Winston Churchill too demonstrate it to the world how you could easily kill three million people in 1943 in the worst famine created in India by exporting food grains?

On top of this, the Union Ministry of Environment Forest and Climate Change seems to lack even the basic common sense. How could it issue permission to Bear Grylls to shoot an episode of “ManVsWild” documentary in Bandipur tiger reserve which last year faced the worst forest fire during this time? Maybe Bear Grylls needs Barak Obama/Narendra Modi and many other well-known politicians and celebrity stars like Rajanikanth and Akshay Kumar to promote his money making documentaries but this does not help conservation in any way but adversely affects it. We appeal to the stars to think twice before accepting such useless endorsements as it happened in Bandipur which is home to 140 tigers.

Had the ‘documentary’ been made during or after the monsoon – maybe, we could have tolerated. The beginning of summer is a very critical time for the entire forest force. Each and every frontline staff is working his butt off to protect/ save what little is left of our precious little forests and wildlife species in the core areas of the national park. How come forest officials and staff did not raise any protest?

Further, the decision makers in our environment ministry seem to have no clue of what prevails in our forests on the onset of summer. As much as 4800 hectares of precious forests in Bandipur was burnt in 2019 while there was a massive fire in 2017. Also, a forest guard died due to asphyxiation. In 2013 too, there was a massive fire. The last “three uncontrollable fires” have consumed as much as 8000 hectares which is  a humongous loss. It may probably take 25-30 years for Bandipur to recover from these infernos and let us not allow stunts and celebrity intrusions amid the tourist rush.

While there has been vast advancement in science and technology, India’s common sense has hit the nadir when it comes to permitting celebrity stunts in protected areas. God save our forests and wildlife species from incompetent officials and celebrity adventurists..

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