As part of the IFAW-WTI Supplemental Accident Insurance Scheme, ex-gratia support of $2000 was provided to the family of Appu in Wayanad, Kerala. Appu was a mahout (elephant caretaker) with the Kerala Forest Department and had been killed while on duty by a captive elephant on the evening of February 13th 2014. Appu had been working in Muthunga, Wayanad with the Kerala Forest Department since May 1999 and had been shifted to the elephant squad in 2001. He is survived by his wife and three children.
The Wildlife Warden of Wayanad Wildlife Sanctuary remarked that with the multiple conservation challenges faced in the field, it is crucial to keep up the morale of the frontline forest staff. To this end, timely support provided to the families of forest guards in the time of their greatest distress by the IFAW-WTI supplemental accident insurance scheme under the Guardians of the Wild programme goes a long way to provide some small relief from the anguish of losing a loved one. Through this scheme, over 20,000 forest field staff across the country has been covered again death/permanent disability while on duty.
The Guardians of the Wild programme has also trained over 12,000 forest staff in more than 130 Protected Areas in over 19 states of India.
The Wildlife Crime Control Bureau (WCCB) and Special Investigation Unit (SIU) of the Himachal Pradesh Police, assisted by IFAW-WTI team, seized nine otter skins from a trader in the first week of June 2014 in the town of Baddi in Himachal Pradesh. One accused, Shivram, was arrested. It was later revealed that his father and brother had been arrested earlier trying to sell wildlife articles in Siliguri, a town in West Bengal close to international borders with Nepal and a gateway to northeast Indian states that further lead on to other neighbouring countries.
Shivram’s father had been arrested in July 2013 in Siliguri with 70 kgs of pangolin scales, along with six accomplices from Manipur, Nagaland, West Bengal and Tamil Nadu indicating a country-wide nexus, and one from Nepal. Last month, his brother was arrested from Siliguri along with leopard skins, bones and otter skins. The operation to nab Shivram began with information collected by the WCCB on the accused trying to sell wildlife parts. The IFAW-WTI team was roped in to assist in the operation.
Led by the WCCB, the operation was strategized along with SIU team members to nab the culprit red-handed with the items. The operation was a complex one as Shivram was wary and kept changing locations within three adjoining Indian states. Despite this, the authorities diligently followed the leads and carefully set the trap with the arrest taking place on June 7th evening. Shivram has been booked under the Indian Wild Life (Protection) Act, 1972 and remanded to police custody.
The skins belonged to Asian small-clawed otters (Aonyx cineria), a species that is listed under Schedule I granting it the highest level of protection under Indian law. If convicted, Shivram stands to serve up to seven years in prison.
Securing a future for the Asian elephant and its continued survival in the wild is a major challenge faced by wildlife conservationists. It is not only the biological rate of extinction that is a cause for concern, but the combined effect of attrition of living spaces and human-elephant encounters on the ground that needs to be immediately addressed.
Over the years, humans have made steady inroads into the elephants’ natural habitat through agriculture and settlements. With their habitats now fragmented, degraded and compressed, these mega-herbivores spill into human settlements thereby setting the stage for a highly volatile combat.
One such situation has been building up in the some villages in Jharkhand that are on the fringes of forest areas. In Reladih village, the farmers had constructed wells to help them in irrigating their fields. Most of these wells have since been abandoned and are not being used by the village community. These unused wells lie open without even a wall around them and in most cases hidden from view. These pose a threat to wild elephant herds in the area, especially for the younger calves which tend to fall into the wells.
Till date, three such wells have been secured by building up the well wall to a height of about 3 feet. With the monsoons having moved into southern India, it is necessary that we secure as many wells as possible.