Wildlife Trust of India

Conserve nature, especially endangered species and threatened habitats, in partnership with communities and governments.
Dec 2, 2016

Amur Falcon Conservation Project

Amur Falcon Pro
Amur Falcon Pro

The state of Nagaland lies in the extreme northeast of India. Falling in the Indo-Malayan Region, it is also part of a global biodiversity ‘hotspot’ and the Eastern Himalayan endemic bird area, indicative of the region’s rich biological wealth. The state especially boasts of potential habitats for some of the globally threatened avian species such as Blyth’s tragopan, brown hornbill etc.

Amur falcon (Falco amurensis) a small raptor of the falcon family, for many decades has been known to congregate in Nagaland for a short period from mid-October to mid-November each year. The state acts as a stop-over site during their annual migration from breeding grounds in Russia, China and Mongolia, to wintering areas in Southern Africa. Doyang reservoir in Wokha district of Nagaland gained prominence as these raptors congregate in huge numbers here.

However, being a protected species under Convention of Migratory Species (CMS), these falcons were being hunted and killed by the local tribals for local consumption and commercial sale every day. This resulted in the massacre of approximate 120,000 birds every year (as reported). The birds were trapped by the hunters in mist fishing nets lined up near the reservoir and were collected early in the morning.

Years down the line, the situation at Doyang has seen a remarkable change of events for the better. With active support from all stakeholders the reservoir is now one of the safest places in India for the visiting raptors and has recently being pushed as a ‚UNESCO Site'. The birds which used to be ‚one’s for the cooking pot' are now the ‘Pride of Nagaland’. Though community restrictions in the villages are in place to prevent hunting, needless to say the three years ‘zero mortality’ success needs to sustain itself so as to have a long term impact which can’t be achieved until the community perceive the long term benefits of protecting the falcons.
Last year, WTI’s team comprising of social scientists undertook need assessment surveys among all stakeholders.

The Amur falcon protection squad have played a pivotal role in protecting the migratory falcons in Doyang and ensured ‘zero mortality’ for three years straight. A need was felt to equip the squad with a motor boat that will assist them in patrolling even the remotest roosting sites.

This project will no lonegr be running on Global Giving. Thank you!

boat for patrolling
boat for patrolling
Protection Squad
Protection Squad
Sep 29, 2016

Advanced Training Workshop-Similipal Tiger Reserve

Photo 2
Photo 2

Similipal Tiger Reserve, September 23, 2016: Wildlife Trust of India (WTI), working in partnership with the Forests & Environment Department, Government of Odisha, has this morning commenced a three-day intensive training workshop on rescue and rehabilitation of displaced wildlife at Ramtirtha, Jashipur, near Similipal Tiger Reserve (STR).

 

This circle-level advanced training is a culmination of a series of workshops conducted since 2015 at various divisions of STR at the behest of the Regional Chief Conservator of Forests (RCCF) cum Field Director of STR, Mr Harish Kumar Bisht, IFS. The initial workshops were held at Baripada (core), as well as the Rairangpur, Karanjia and Balasore (wildlife) divisions with the objective of identifying and constituting circle-level teams of five Forest Department personnel in each division. These candidates having been identified, this advanced training will now focus on equipping, sensitising and further enhancing their ability to handle emergencies related to displaced wildlife.

 

The workshop was inaugurated by Mr Bisht (RCCF-cum-Field Director, STR), Dr JD Pati, IFS (Divisional Forest Officer, Rairangpur), Mr AK Biswal (Assistant Conservator of Forests, Baripada STR), Dr KK Mondal (Honorary Wildlife Warden), Major Das (a retired army officer) and representatives from WTI. “The vision of this training is to address wildlife emergencies promptly, effectively, safely and systematically”, Mr Bisht told the participants; “in times to come incidences of human-wildlife conflict are bound to rise, making such trainings invaluable.” Major Das compared the Forest Department’s frontline field staff with army soldiers, encouraging them to develop a similar outlook towards forest protection as a soldier has towards protecting the country.

The workshop will provide mainly hands-on training for the most part over the coming sessions, with some theoretical sessions on the foundations and protocols of wildlife rescue, rehabilitation, ethics and documentation. Today, Dr Khanin Changmai, Veterinary Surgeon with WTI’s Mobile Veterinary Service (MVS) unit at STR, provided a demonstration and training on using immobilisation equipment, which included shooting practice for the trainees. Other practical sessions will include technical rope rescue training on land and water bodies, mock drills on emergencies involving elephants, leopards, bears and tigers, and human-snake conflict mitigation.

Picture 1
Picture 1
Sep 26, 2016

MVS Team Sedates, Treats and Releases Wild 'Makhna

Picture 1
Picture 1

Ronga Reserve Forest, Assam, August 26, 2016: A wild ‘makhna’ (tusk-less male) elephant was chemically restrained and treated for an inflammation of its right foreleg on August 18. This marked the end of an operation spanning two weeks and involving multiple attempts by IFAW-WTI veterinarian Dr Jahan Ahmed, assisted by Dr Rinku Gohain and working with Assam Forest Department personnel, to sedate and treat this particular elephant.

The following is a first-hand account of the operation by Dr Ahmed:

A Clash of Titans
On the evening of August 3 our Mobile Veterinary Service (MVS - North Bank) received a report from the North Lakhimpur Forest Department that an injured makhna had been seen in the Bogoli beat under the Harmutty Range of Ronga Reserve Forest. We proceeded to the location the next morning but the elephant was in a densely forested area and as forest officials were unable to get a fix on its exact location, we could not intervene.

Two days later we received news that the elephant had been located. Forest staff chased it to the Bogoli River where a forest guard and I were waiting atop a ‘kumki’ (a specially trained Forest Department elephant), ready to dart it and administer the required treatment.

We saw the makhna emerge onto the river bed. It was massive, about a foot-and-a-half taller than our kumki. It had a large swelling at its right shoulder joint and was dragging its foreleg. The moment it saw us though, it charged, ramming into our elephant from behind. Our mahout, a young chap, didn’t panic. He turned the kumki towards the wild elephant and met it head-on. As the elephants battled I tried desperately to get a clear shot and dart the makhna. I did get my chance but with the rapid movements of the two elephants – and of the rather frightened forest guard behind me – I missed.

Both elephants were still fighting in the ankle deep water. We had started out near the east bank but were now on the west bank of the river. The Range Officer Rubul Pathak, DFO B Vasanthan and ACF N Das were about 150 metres away, watching the scene unfold. The makhna was now running away and our kumki gave pursuit. It was getting dark and they were running into dense forest, so the forest guard and I decided to jump off.

The Last Dart
Over the next few days we tried in vain to locate the elephant. Then, on the afternoon of August 10, it was sighted in a small stream, moving towards the river. We reached the spot and a ranger fired a dart, but missed. The makhna was moving towards the forest again when we prepared and fired another dart. It struck the gluteal muscle but didn’t fall off. It had malfunctioned. Another opportunity lost, and it was already evening; we packed up for the day.

Dr Rinku Gohain joined me on August 12 having brought more darts from CWRC. Forest staff were constantly monitoring the makhna’s movements but it was deep within the Ronga Range Forest, making any sort of intervention impossible. Finally, on August 18 we learned that it had been spotted near the Harmutty Tea Estate. We prepared two darts and I and a forest guard approached the elephant atop a kumki. It was just about 250 metres inside the forest, but since it was lying down in a thicket we couldn’t get a clear shot. We decided that it would have to be chased toward the tea garden where we would lie in wait. Unfortunately, again, things didn’t go according to plan – the makhna ran the other way, deeper into the forest!

Dr Gohain had to leave at this point to attend to an abandoned elephant calf in Dejoo Tea Estate. The forest was too dense for us to proceed on elephant back, so a forest guard and I went in on foot. We saw the elephant taking a mud bath in a swampy area. I fired a dart and it struck near the tailbone. It fell off after about five minutes and we collected it to see if the sedative had been delivered properly. We followed the makhna for about 40 minutes; it was drowsy but not yet sedated, so we fired two top-up darts.

Ten minutes later its trunk was fully relaxed and we could safely approach it on the kumki. It was 9.5 feet tall and in good health apart from the huge swelling at its right shoulder, towards the antero lateral side. There was no external injury; the area had calcified and there was no pus. I administered long acting antibiotics, anti-inflammatory drugs, anti-histamines and multi-vitamins.

After about 20 minutes the elephant moved its hind limbs. I applied a topical spray on the dart injuries, and administered an injection to counteract the anaesthetic.

We came away from the area. The makhna was seen an hour later, fully recovered from the sedative. It was browsing on grass and creepers as it moved off into the dense forest.

Picture 2
Picture 2
Picture 3
Picture 3
 
   

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