Till date, the Wildlife Trust of India (WTI) has successfully saved about 4000 individual animal lives, vaccinated more than 12000 livestock around fringes of protected areas, and provided healthcare support to 1000 captive elephants through its six Mobile Veterinary Service (MVS) units.
The Field Director- Similipal Tiger Reserve, Odisha, approached WTI in setting up a rescue center-cum-MVS unit operating from Similipal Tiger Reserve. The forest department in Similipal informed WTI that they have been attending to cases of wildlife emergencies for almost two years now through their local infrastructure. The field director indicated that they had attended to 66 cases since 2011. The affected wildlife belonged to various species of mammals (elephants, fishing cat, pangolin, mouse deer, etc.), birds (owls, parakeets, hornbill, etc.) and reptiles (banded krait, python, chameleon, etc.). The MVS unit in Similipal Tiger Reserve was officially launched on 15th May 2014.
Similipal Tiger Reserve, located in the northern part of Orissa’s Mayurbhanj district, is spread over 2750 sq. km and is home to the highest number of tigers in the state apart from over 54 other species of mammals, 304 species of birds, 60 species of reptiles, 21 species of frogs, 38 species of fish, 164 species of butterflies and 1078 species of plants. The 1,555.25 sq. km Similipal Buffer Zone has 65 villages, with a population of over 12,500 people, mostly within the Reserve Forest. An estimated 250,000 people from nearly a dozen tribal denominations reside in over 400 villages on the fringes of Similipal Tiger Reserve. The MVS-STR is conveniently located at the fringe of STR at Pithabada Wildlife Range Office in Baripada and poised to immediately respond to any wildlife emergency which may arise. For the first time, the state of Odisha will have a dedicated mobile unit manned by trained veterinarian and caretaker to attend to wildlife emergencies reported from the region. The main objective of the MVS unit is to return every displaced animal to the wild while following the IUCN guidelines on translocation and placement of confiscated animals. The unit will be served by a small field station that will have basic facilities to accommodate temporarily displaced animals till their release. Non-releasable animals will be sent to zoos for lifetime care and breeding. The unit by its presence in the area will also help to create awareness drives amongst the local villagers on how to deal with and respond to different conflict scenarios.
On the 10th of November, our veterinarian was called to attend to a “cat like” creature that had entered a villager’s hut. It had been trapped inside the hut by the family. The vet, suspecting it was a civet, rushed there. The visit to the house soon confirmed his suspicions. An Asian Palm Civet had decided that a beam under the roof of the house seemed like a good place to shelter.
The Asian Palm Civet (Paradoxurus hermaphroditus), or “toddy cat” is a small nocturnal and arboreal mammal and classified as ‘Least Concern” by the IUCN Red List of Threatened Species. It is protected under Schedule II of the Wildlife (Protection) Act, 1972 in India.
The vet managed to catch the civet and brought her back to the MVS station to give it a quick check up. It was found to be a sub adult female in overall good health apart from a few minor injuries on her tail. These injuries were treated using a topical ointment and she was given food and water for the night.
The next evening, she was released in a wooded area suitable to her needs.
Wildlife Trust of India’s (WTI) Mobile Veterinary Service (MVS) in Similipal Biosphere Reserve, Odisha also organised a training programme for the frontline forest staff from four forest divisions on ‘Rescue Basics and Ethics’ in Similipal Tiger Reserve in October.
The training was organised primarily to attend to wild displacements in and around Similipal Biosphere Reserve. Initially, this training was carried out in four Forest Divisions and Similipal TR and 15 frontline staff from each of these units participated in this unique exercise which included three foresters, seven forest guards and five senior watchers. After the training programme, five individuals from each division were selected on the basis of written and practical sessions to form a ‘Rescue Team’ of 25 individuals.
Equipment for these rescue teams has now been purchased and plans are on to train a handful of these guards in advanced rescue methods.
Another case the MVS attended was to provide a leopard that has strayed into a plantation safe passage back to its habitat. Three people had been injured by the leopard hiding in the plantation and the MVS team rushed to the site in order to aid the Forest Department staff to mitigate the situation. The crowd was controlled successfully and staff were placed in a semi circle around the plantation area. The open area pointed towards the nearest jungle. There was no need for any further intervention as the leopard moved towards the jungle and disappeared.
It was also a great opportunity for our team to spread awareness among the people and to teach them how best to deal with a situation when wildlife enters human habitation.
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In spite of stringent laws, poaching, for various purposes, has been identified as a major threat to populations of many wild species. Wildlife trade across the country is organized and has strong international connections through the porous borders of Nepal, Bhutan, Bangladesh & Myanmar. Approximately 4.7% of the country’s geographical area is protected under the Wildlife (Protection) Act, 1972 and affords suitable habitat for potentially viable populations of rich wildlife. Protection for the animals and their habitat is, thus, of prime concern in the protected area network.
Central India holds one of the largest source populations of tiger and its co-predator throughout its distribution. But since last decade, poaching and illegal trading cases have increased in this landscape. Plenty of wildlife is present outside the Protected Areas (PAs) in the state of Madhya Pradesh (MP) and staff in territorial divisions or outside PAs do not possess adequate knowledge on various legal aspects such as WL (P) Act, 1972 nor are they completely equipped to protect them. In fact, one of the principal difficulties in combating the poaching problem is the lack of wellequipped and trained field staff and most of the staff working outside the PAs do not possess basic personal antipoaching kits to perform their duties and responsibilities efficiently.
The Wildlife Trust of India carried out its Wildlife Crime Prevention Training Module for the Front Line Forest Staff in Madhav National Park in order to address some of these deficiencies.
Madhav National Park (MNP) is located in Madhya Pradesh (25.4667° N, 77.7500° E). The total area of MNP is 354 km2 . It was named after Madho Rao Scindia, the Maharaja of Gwalior belonging to the Scindia dynasty of the Marathas. The park is situated in Shivpuri District of Gwalior region in northwest Madhya Pradesh on Agra to Mumbai National Highway-3. The park has a varied terrain of forested hills and flat grasslands around the lake making it extremely biodiverse. Commonly sighted fauna include the graceful little chinkara or Indian gazelle, and the chital. The sambhar, chausingha or four-horned antelope, blackbuck, sloth bear, leopard and the common langur are also present here. This National park is also home to equally diverse avi fauna whilst muggars, monitor lizards and the Indian python can be found around its SakhyaSagar Lake.
The goal of the present project was to increase the operational efficiency of the frontline forest staff serving for Madhya Pradesh Forest Department. The objectives of the training were as follows:
- Create strong, motivated and well-equipped field frontline forest staff.
- Boost field staff morale for effective anti-poaching operations.
- Curb poaching and to check forest degradation
Two batches of training were conducted whereby the first batch comprised of staff that had not received any training on Wildlife Crime Prevention whilst the second batch was a refresher course for staff that had already undergone WTI's Wildlife Crime Prevention Training the year before.
The course for the new trainees included sessions on the biodiversity of Madhya Pradesh and the identification of animals through their pugmarks, scat, hoof prints etc. The course consisted of an overview of wildlife crime trends in India and globally, Wildlife (Protection) Act, 1972 of India and its various sections, anti-poaching techniques, Crime Scene Investigation, intelligence gathering, interrogation techniques, and preparation of Preliminary Offence Report (POR) as well as complaints to be submitted in the trial courts with proper documentation.
During the training, audio and visual aids were used along with a practical field demonstration. In the demonstration, a mock Crime Scene was created and teams were formed for conducting the investigation. The mistakes committed by the investigation teams were pointed out to them, and they were briefed about procedures of collecting and preserving (including sealing and collection of forensic evidence) evidence. Afterwards, they were asked prepare complete set of documents to be submitted in the court along with the complaint for the crime they had investigated. The lacunae were discussed with them and they were taught how to correlate sections with the various evidences collected from the crime scene.
The refresher training consisted of a brief recap of the training from the previous year and went on to train them in more in depth methods of Wildlife Crime Prevention, including building informer networks and case studies.
A total of 48 trainees attended the training for the first time and 50 trainees were given the refresher training.
The course materials provided in the fresher and refresher training in Madhav National Park are listed below.
1. Wildlife Crime (Hindi) - provided to each participant
2. Wildlife (Protection) Act, 1972 (Hindi) - provided to each participant
3. A field guide to Indian Mammals (Hindi) – provided to toppers in pre-training test.
4. Know your wildlife – provided in exercise groups
Pre and post training tests were conducted to assess the trainees. Feedback collected from the trainees contained an overwhelmingly positive response with around 90% of the trainees indicatingthat the exercise on mock Crime Scene Investigation was very innovative and useful for real-time investigation and the entire course to be relevant to their work.
Certificates were distributed to each trainee after the successful completion of the training. All the certificates were signed by the CCF & Field Director, Madhav National Park and Mr.Vivek Menon, Executive Director, WTI. In addition to the certificates, ‘A Field Guide to Indian Mammals’ Authored by Mr.Vivek Menon was also given as an award to those trainees who performed exceptionally well during the training.
The trainees strongly recommended that refresher training should be organised every year for the staff of Madhav National Park and fresh training should be organized for the staff of Gwalior and Morena divisions. The trainees also desired that WTI should prepare a specialized field guide on wildlife crime prevention for forest staff.
In the light of knowledge increment of trainees , their co-operation and interest, and feedback of the present training and provision of field kits, it can be assumed that the Crime Prevention Training to all frontline staff provided by WTI-MP Forest department was very useful.
In yet another major breakthrough for the Kerala Forest Department, three seasoned elephant poachers from Tamil Nadu and a middle man was arrested from the Kerala-Tamil Nadu border on October 15, 2015. The middle man Babu alias Chettiar and his father Jose were habitual offenders and had been associated with ivory trade for decades. When questioned, Babu confessed supplying about 200 kgs of ivory to Trivandrum based ivory trader - Brite Aji -- who was arrested earlier. Babu and his father went into hiding soon after Brite Aji was arrested. With their arrests, the Kerala Forest Department is hoping to get more information about elephant poaching and ivory trade in South India. These arrests came after the Kerala Forest Department, Wildlife Crime Control Bureau and Delhi Police seized 487 kgs of ivory in an undercover operation in Delhi on October 10, 2015. This haul was the result of a carefully planned ‘Operation Shikar’ in which one Umesh Aggrawal was arrested on October 2. Suspected to be the kingpin of the illegal ivory trade India, Aggarwal was the main buyer of ivory and maker of various artefacts. During the entire operation, Wildlife Trust of India (WTI) and its international partner International Fund for Animal Welfare (IFAW) provided technical and field support to the investigating agencies. With so many arrests, the Kerala Forest Department have broken the back of elephant poaching in southern India. However, more arrests are not being ruled out in what can be considered as the biggest operation launched by the Kerala Forest Department against elephant poaching in the state.