July 29, 2019 / 8:31 AM / 25 days ago

Modi versus Wild: Indian PM to join Bear Grylls in wilderness

NEW DELHI (Reuters) - Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi is teaming up with British TV adventurer Bear Grylls to venture into India’s wilderness to raise awareness about protecting nature, the show’s host said.

FILE PHOTO: Television personality Bear Grylls arrives at the 2013 NBCUniversal Summer Press Day at The Langham Huntington Hotel and Spa in Pasadena, California, April 22, 2013. REUTERS/Jonathan Alcorn

India is struggling to protect its environment and its wildlife, as a huge and growing population puts ever more pressure on its wild spaces.

“People across 180 countries will get to see the unknown side of PM @narendramodi as he ventures into Indian wilderness to create awareness about animal conservation & environmental change,” Grylls, star of survival show “Man vs. Wild” on the Discovery Channel, said on Twitter.

A trailer for the programme shows Modi, 68, driving into the Jim Corbett National Park in northern India guided by Grylls, with images of a tiger, a herd of elephants and deer running in the distance.

“You are the most important person in India, it’s my job to protect you,” Grylls tells Modi.

Modi said he had grown up in nature and the programme with Grylls was a chance to showcase India’s rich wildlife.

“For years, I have lived among nature, in the mountains and the forests,” Discovery quoted Modi as saying in a statement.

“These years have a lasting impact on my life. So when I was asked about a special programme focussing on life beyond politics and that too in the midst of nature I was both intrigued and inclined to take part in it.”

The show, which airs on Aug. 12, is stirring some excitement among fans of Modi, who led his party to a second straight general election victory this year.

“This is unbelievable. PM Modi knows how to do it,” said one Twitter user, Akash Jain.

India, which stretches from snow-bound Himalayan heights in the north to steamy tropics in the south, is home to most of the world’s remaining wild tigers.

India’s tiger count rose to 2,967 in 2018, up a third from 2014, new estimates released by Modi on Monday showed.

More than 3.8 million sq km (1.5 million sq miles) of forest were surveyed in 2018 and 2019, with cameras in about 26,000 locations and hundreds of thousands of kilometres covered on foot.

“India is committed to doing whatever it can to further animal protection and conservation,” Modi said, releasing the census report.

In recent years, endangered wild cats, including leopards, have come into more frequent conflict with villagers as the animals’ habitat shrinks.

Last week, villagers in northern India beat a tiger to death with sticks after it mauled a man, media said.

Additional reporting by Devjyot Ghoshal; Editing by Robert Birsel and Clarence Fernandez

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