A squad of 49 women of the backward Korku tribe has become the protector of tigers in the Melghat forest, TOI reports. At a time, when this particular animal species is on the verge of extinction, these young women have dedicated their lives to stop poaching of tigers.

The squad keeps a hawk eye on poachers and rescues distressed animals. They even have to face attacks from villagers who oppose relocation.

Known as the women jawans of Special Tiger Protection Force (STPF), they are the official watchdog of the wildlife in the mountainous region of Melghat forest.

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These women, who were once confined to the four walls of their home are now equipped with proper knowledge of the nooks and corners of one of the most vital tiger habitats of the country.

“Out of 92 jawans, 49 are women. They were recruited last year from the nearby tribal villages after undergoing physical training for six months,” said their Range Forest Officer Kalpana Waghere.

“We come from very poor families. Initially, we applied for the post as a government job gives us some security. But, now, we think of the forest as our own,” said 25-year-old forest guard Savita Jamunkar.

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Mostly in their 20s, these women jawans start their day with warm-up exercises and then head off to the deep forest, traversing about 18 km every day through difficult mountainous terrain. Encounters with carnivores are also common.

When asked to share her experiences, forest guard Tara Patankar replied, “In June last year, three of us were on regular patrol (along with male members). It was raining heavily and we had just started climbing a mountain when we saw two huge black boulders. Going close, we realized that they were sloth bears digging the ground. We had a close shave.”

One of the biggest achievements of the troupe was when wild boars started disappearing from a village in Dhakna range. The women jawans of the force were given the task to investigate. “We learnt that a mentally deranged servant of a cattle owner was behind the killing. Late at night, we received information through wireless that they were cooking a boar,” said Savita Dhikar.

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The risk is big, so is the spirit! These women guards are fearless and dedicated. They have great support from their families too. It’s a struggle for many of the married women to go to work daily.

“We get to go home once in every two months or so. Last week, my husband turned up at the base camp and created a scene. He was upset as I was not giving time to the family,” said one of them.

They have sought service quarters for their families so that they can stay together. Hats off to the fierce ladies!

READ: Woman, the Force.

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