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Karan works in Kanha National Park — home to deer, tiger and Indian bison — in the state of Madhya Pradesh in India as a naturalist and safari lodge owner.

Mahouts and their elephants in Kanha National Park
Mahouts and their elephants in Kanha National Park

Q: How did you become a naturalist?

Karen ModiMy wonderful journey began in the Indian Himalaya. I received my formal training as a trekking guide from the Nehru Institute of Mountaineering, which is an organization run by retired Indian Army officers.

I was living in Bombay but hoped to gradually move to a more temperate zone, so I headed toward India’s Central Highlands, to the forests of Kanha National Park. The most important lesson I’ve learnt from my experiences is, 'The more you know, the less you know — and the more you want to know!'. This keeps me going in search of knowledge and truth.

Q: Have you had any frightening encounters?

Tiger drinking Honestly, I’ve had a few — but I’ve been very lucky to survive them all! One experience that really made me aware of the extreme power of nature was a cloudburst in Ladakh. The rain took away the existence of many people who were in the valley, as roads and entire mountains slopes got swept away. I’d been with a group on a snow leopard expedition in the Markha Valley at the time. When tragedy strikes a community, it unites people and therefore gives them strength, but it is an event I’ll never forget.

Q: What have been your career highlights?

Climbing up to 6,400 m (20,997 ft) during my training at the Nehru Institute of Mountaineering; being educated in Indian flora and fauna by a South African head ranger; the snow leopard expedition in Ladakh; and the opening of the Flame of the Forest safari lodge — my dream come true.

Q: What makes Kanha so special?

Kanha’s landscapes are vast, ever-changing and have a very mystical feel. The bio-diversity here is second-to-none and the variety of wildlife, including birdlife, always overwhelms me. The people are wonderful — they have a simple yet very practical way of life.

Q: What's the best part of your job?

An India Roller spotted at Kanha National Park It’s a blessing to share a true wilderness experience with our guests and make their dreams come true. To share means to multiply and therefore my dream gets multiplied with every guest that arrives. I’m also able to contribute to the welfare of the local community and protect, conserve and reforest the land from which we gain so much.

Q: What is the worst part of your job?

Nothing is the worst when you love to do what you do! And if there’s anything you don’t like, persevere with it and you will learn from it eventually.

Q: Are there any animals you have not yet seen and would like to?

India has a huge variety of highly nocturnal animals that I haven’t been lucky enough to see — leopard cats, honey badgers, clouded leopards, hoolock gibbons, lion tailed macaques and about 1,000 species of Indian bird, not to forget the plants and trees. The more you learn, the less you know and the more you want to explore.

Q: Which are the hardest animals to track?

To name a few only in and around Kanha: badgers, smaller cats, wild dogs, bears, porcupines and civet cats.

Q: What are the main issues facing Kanha at the moment?

Habitat loss and forest degradation.

Q: What impact does tourism have on Kanha?

It creates better conservation awareness, gives livelihood to local people, reduces dependency on forest products and creates vigilance.

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