Wildlife Trust of India

Conserve nature, especially endangered species and threatened habitats, in partnership with communities and governments.
Dec 15, 2015

Training the Guards of Madhav National Park

An introduction to the training
An introduction to the training

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. 

Enforcement Training
Enforcement Training
The Trainees had a Lot of Questions!
The Trainees had a Lot of Questions!
Distributing the course material
Distributing the course material
Dec 8, 2015

Three poachers and one middleman arrested1

Suspected poachers
Suspected poachers

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. 

Links:

Dec 8, 2015

An eventful month in Bandipur

Tiger surrounded by villagers
Tiger surrounded by villagers

The Bandipur National Park is situated at the confluence of Western and Eastern Ghats in Karnataka in Southern India, serving as a central link in the seasonal migration of Elephants from Mudumalai National Park and Satyamangalam Forest Division in the east and south east to Nagarahole National Park and Wynad Sanctuary in the west and North West. The Park is a significant component of the 5500 sq.km ‘Nilgiri Biosphere Reserve’ which is one of the largest conservation areas in India. A large population of elephants is found here along with seven large ungulate species and three large predatory carnivores – tigers, leopards and dholes.

 For the first time, Bandipur Tiger Reserve 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. 

he MVS clinics function under the concept that animals estranged from their natural habitat, either due to human interference or by accident, must be given every chance to return to their natural habitat. The major methods of operation of the MVS unit in a project area are:

1. Wildlife Rescue and Rehabilitation

2. Human-Wildlife conflict mitigation

3. Immunization of livestock around protected areas

4. Captive elephant care

5. Disease investigation, surveillance and control

A. Wildlife rescue, rehabilitation and conflict mitigation

The MVS team was called to several cases of leopard and tiger attacks where cattle had been attacked and killed. Many cases were reported in the Hediyala and Omkara range and in one case, a tiger was seen attacking a cow. A large mob surrounded a lantana thicket in which the tiger was hiding and after an individual threw a stone at the tiger, the tiger rushed out and attacked a man, causing severe injuries to his rear end and thighs. The mob became violent and chased the tiger back into the forest. The MVS team assisted in coordinating the arrival of police to handle the mob situation and helped with the placement of camera traps in the area.

Three cases of leopard bites on cattle were reported in the Kundkere range. All the animals were treated and are in good health.

In the last week of November, the MVS unit was called in to attend to a case in which a tiger had killed a man and carried his body into the forest to eat. A massive operation was launched in which the MVS veterinarian assisted the Forest Department in an attempt to capture the animal. Members of the MVS team assisted significantly in the control of the mob. In one case, the mob was dispersed as the MVS Veterinarian had treated several animals in the village from which the miscreants were. Upon recognizing the vet, members of the mob stopped the situation from escalating and helped disperse the rest of the crowd. Unfortunately on the final day of the operation, the tiger was killed with a shot to the head after it attacked a forest guard. A post- mortem was conducted the following day which confirmed the tiger was indeed the same one that killed the man.

B. Disease investigation

A few more Foot and Mouth Disease cases were reported in the Hediyala Range for which treatment was administered to the cattle affected. It is of note that these cases occurred in the same range in which the tiger was killing cattle and people and further study is required to conclude a positive link between the two issues.

In the Nagerhole Forest, a tiger was found in a severely debilitated condition by a patrol. The tiger was unable to move and was tranquilized and transported to the Mysore Zoo. The MVS Veterinarian assisted the Zoo Veterinarians in conducting a postmortem. The PM revealed several issues with the tiger which included lung flukes, intestinal parasites, pericarditis and pleuritis along with hemorrhagic lesions in the lungs, liver, spleen, kidneys and intestines.

The postmortem of the tiger killed in Hediyala too showed several lesions on the liver and intestines indicative of parasitism. Additionally, samples were collected and sent for analysis to detect rabies and the presence of Canine Distemper, a disease carried and spread by feral dogs.

 C. Captive elephant care

The MVS Veterinarian in coordination with the Animal Welfare Board of India (AWBI) carried out a second detailed investigation in response to the initial report sent. A committee was formed by the AWBI under instruction from a Supreme Court Panel to investigate the elephants health and well-being. One elephant was deemed severely unwell and was given treatment. Unfortunately, during the time the MVS veterinarian was attending the tiger incident in Hediyala, the elephant fell over and died. An external veterinarian tried to attend to the ailing elephant but was not allowed to administer any treatment by the owner and mahouts. Following the death of the animal, the PCCF, Karnataka gave orders to seize the surviving animals which were sent to the Doddaharave Camp for rehabilitation and care. The MVS Veterinarian will continue to offer treatment to the elephants on an on call basis.

Following the Dussehra celebrations, one elephant, 'Chaitra', delivered a premature calf after being transported back to Bandipur. The MVS veterinarian has checked the calf and is currently observing the calf in case any health issues arise.

D. Awareness and training programs

The MVS team has visited and treated several animals in peripheral villages around Bandipur and Nagerhole. Awareness has been raised and panchayat members have been recruited in an attempt to assist mob control should it arise during a conflict situation.

Following the Hediyala tiger incident, it was determined that the Forest Department staff were not trained and capable to handle basic first aid. The MVS Veterinarian will conduct a short first aid course in coordination with St. Johns Ambulance First Aid Training program to ensure every member of the Bandipur FD Staff is sufficiently qualified to administer first aid in an emergency situation

E. Plan for next month

The MVS Team will continue to attend to wild animal and livestock cases in and around the Bandipur Tiger Reserve and carry out awareness campaigns in areas of high human-animal conflict. 

 
   

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