Animals
 India
Project #11187

Protect Tigers in India

by Wildlife Trust of India
WTI team interacting with Forest Department team
WTI team interacting with Forest Department team
Whilst the anti snare walks are an integral part of what we do to protect our tigers, it is just as important to us to ensure that the poachers are punished to the fullest extent of the law. We work with the Forest Department in various Tiger Reserves by providing legal assistance as well

A Central India legal assistance review meeting was held in Pench Tiger Reserve, Madhya Pradesh, on October 16, 2015. The joint meeting of the Forest Department and Wildlife Trust of India (WTI) was conducted with an aim to strengthen mechanism to ensure that no criminal is let off scot-free and evaluate the legal assistance provided to the forest department on a monthly basis. The meeting was held in the presence of the Field Director, Pench TR; WTI's Regional Head, a WTI Advocate, and external legal advisor  and the concerned ACF’s/Range Officers of the Pench TR.

WTI has been providing legal assistance to Pench Tiger Reserve by assisting the forest authorities in filing cases comprehensively and also advising them on pending cases from these areas. The aim of the meeting is to prevent crimes against wildlife as per the definitions and provisions of the Wild Life (Protection) Act, 1972; achieve high rate of wildlife crime conviction; and take cognizance of all wildlife cases filed with the help of IFAW-WTI’s legal assistance team in the trial courts.

It was decided that a uniform reporting format will be maintained for all the wildlife crime cases and a cumulative list of the wildlife crime cases in Pench Tiger Reserve be prepared. Accordingly, the cases are prioritized on the basis of the seriousness of crime, i.e. schedule, seizure and category. They should then be dealt accordingly. During the course of the meeting, the participants also discussed how to reduce the delay in getting the update from the newly formed courts to increase efficacy. It was agreed that the above mentioned decisions taken in the meeting will be implemented at the earliest. This will steer a way towards the desired goals of ensuring high percentage/level of conviction of the wildlife criminals. Further, a meeting will be held in another three months to follow up the implementation of the decision and review the legal assistance under the guidance of the Field Director.

Mr Subhoranjan Sen, Field Director, Pench Tiger Reserve, stated in the meeting that it is the primary duty of the forest staff to protect the wildlife and its habitat. To ensure the protection of the wildlife and its habitat, it is important to keep a check on the wildlife crimes happening in and around the Tiger Reserve, which is the primary duty and aim of the Forest Department. Further, he appreciated the legal assistance from WTI and asked the forest staff to take benefit from the same.

A detailed plan was formulated
A detailed plan was formulated
Map Showing the anti snare walks
Map Showing the anti snare walks

The decline of tigers across the world has been swift! Three subspecies of tigers became extinct during the second half of the 20th Century and the world’s wild tiger population has declined by over 95% since the turn of the 20th century. In 2014, the tiger population in India stood between 2011-2226 tigers only. With over 66 recorded tiger deaths in 2014, and 49 in 2015 (so far) we cannot afford to lose even a single tiger to poachers. Parks like Sariska (Rajasthan) and Panna (Madhya Pradesh) lost all their tigers to poaching some years back and are now on a slow path to recovery.

Organised poachers and local forest fringe communities layout metal jaw traps and wire noose snares which are hidden in the undergrowth and trap unsuspecting animals as they step into them. The animals either suffer slow agonizing deaths in these traps or are brutally killed by poachers who come to retrieve their “kill”. Snares are basically wire nooses which tighten around the animals’ limbs or body more and more as the animal struggles to get free. Both traps and snare can cause fractures and grievous wounds which get infected even if the animal manages to free itself.

This project has a multi pronged approach. The first is as a deterrent to villagers on the fringes from even laying the snares. The second is the actual removal of snares that have already been laid out. The third is building a strong network of informants to gather intelligence on wildlife crime in the region.

As the news of regular walks spreads, it deters poachers from carrying out their snaring activities as there is a strong possibility of their being caught and also of losing the traps they put out. The removal of snares is a preventive measure to protect the wildlife in the forest as snares will lie dormant until they are triggered.

The anti snare walks are carried out along the fringes of the forests. The anti snare walk teams comprise of between 4 to 12 members including Forest Department staff, WTI staff and local youth volunteers. These teams walk distances of between 8 to 14 kilometres a day. All snares and traps that are found are geo tagged to mark their locations, disarmed and bought back to the Department office as evidence.

Plotting the locations of snares helps identify poaching hot spots. The locations of the anti snare walks are kept a secret until they start to avoid tip offs to poachers.

The N Begur Range of Bandipur Tiger Reserve has been an area with high incidences of snares. It was thus decided that the anti snare walks for the financial year 2015 – 16 would start off here.  The anti snare walks this year have covered 6 ranges of Bandipur TR, namely Gundre, N Begur, Nugu, Omkar, Hediyala and Moliyur Ranges covering a total of 189.2 km.  The other side of the park will be covered during the remainder of the year. 185 snares have been recovered so far.

Solar fence wires and bike clutch cables are the most preferred materials at Bandipur as these are easily available in the local village shops. They are also easily concealable under clothes and small bags. It has been observed that snares are mostly laid in the peripheral areas of the park. Suspects have also been caught red handed laying snares during the walks.  

Meetings have also been held with the Forest Department to strategise further. The team is also aiding the Forest Department in compiling and creating a centralised database from 10 districts of all cases related to Wildlife crime.  There are 128 cases that are being compiled to create a centralised intelligence cell.

The team has also been aiding the Forest Department with dealing with Human Animal Conflict. A two and a half year old female leopard was rescued from Bachahalli village.

The Bandipur Forest Department has commended the anti snare walks and their importance in protecting the wildlife of the region. 

Snares in the field
Snares in the field
Disarming a Snare
Disarming a Snare
Mongoose hair brushes
Mongoose hair brushes

Background: Wildlife trade is identified as one of the major threats to the survival of many species in India. Several species of wildlife are under constant threat due to illegal commercial exploitation. Wildlife trade control is carried out by various enforcement agencies across the country.

Wildlife Trust of India (WTI) tries to fill in certain gaps, by assisting these agencies through its Wildlife Trade Control Project.  The project area, peninsular India is a historic source for animal products and trophies obtained from tigers, leopards elephants which are further traded in the international markets. The traditional tiger hunting communities such as pardhies and bawarias are also active in these areas.  Poaching and trade of wildlife for bush-meat is also widespread across the region which affects not only the ecology of species like spotted deer, gaur and sambar but also the long-term survival of predators like tiger and leopard.  Local hunters use hand-made guns, snares, etc., to poach wild animals and  they sell valuable body parts to established gangs through existing networks of carriers and agents.

A number of interstate poaching gangs have been intercepted by various State Forest Departments with assistance from WTI's team. Since the start of the project in 2009, WTI has assisted State Forest Departments in confiscating tiger skins, leopard skins, ivory and arrest of suspects. Hundreds of wire snares have been removed during anti-snare walks which are conducted in association with frontline forest guards in Tiger Reserves. The project also acts as a platform to impart training to frontline staff in the Project area.  WTI has also carried out anti snare work last year and removed number of electrocution and snare from those fringe and buffer areas. WTI team has also assisted in many cases to helping monitor wildlife crime and providing technical assistance. The trade control activities will be done in association with the local community and Forest Department.

Activities conducted during last quarter:-

  • Between April and July 2015, our Trade Control Team working in the South India carried out anti snare walks in the fringe areas of the Bandipur and removed 87 snares from Gundre Range, N Begur and from Moliyur Range. Apart from anti-snare work in Bandipur Tiger Reserve (BTR) and its surrounding area, WTI team is also providing technical assistance to the BTR officials on deploying, collecting and compiling information from camera traps.  During current financial year, our team has provided Intelligence and Operational Assistance to Karnataka Forest Department and created a centralised data base. Our team has also gathered data on more than 128 wildlife cases which have been registered by the police in various police stations.
  • Our team also aided in the seizure of mongoose hair brushes and mongoose hair in Kochi. Mongooses are protected under the Wildlife (Protection) Act, 1972. Boxes of hair brushes were seized and suspects arrested.
  • On June 1, 2015, WTI’s central India trade control team had assisted the Nagpur Local Crime Branch (LCB) unit of Government Railway Police 
    (GRP) to seize 98 live black spotted terrapins from two people on a train going from New Delhi to Pondicherry. Out of 98 live black spotted terrapins seized, 16 died due to suffocation during transport in the train.  During the investigation the team also found out that the animals had been brought from near Jhansi in Uttar Pradesh. The duo was then arrested. The black spotted Terrapin   (Geoclemys Hamiltoni) comes under the scheduled I Part II (14-C) of Wild Life (Protection) Act, 1972.

The suspects were residents of Karnataka state, belonging to the Hakki Pikki community. They had both been involved in smuggling for a long time.

Our team is also looking into the highly lucrative and highly illegal pangolin and otter trade. The main aspects of the study will include a survey on the distribution pattern of the species and gathering intelligence on suspected poachers 

Boxes of Mongoose Hair Brushes were seized
Boxes of Mongoose Hair Brushes were seized

Links:

The seized animal skins in police custody.
The seized animal skins in police custody.

Mukerian, February 24, 2015: In a joint operation, Punjab Police and Wildlife Crime Control Bureau (WCCB) arrested four people and seized 20 skins, tiger parts and 94.370 kg of leopard bones from them. The entire operation was assisted by International Fund for Animal Welfare (IFAW)-Wildlife Trust of India (WTI) team.

(In another operation the Himachal Pradesh Police Department seized 6 leopard skins and apprehended five people in a covert operation in Bilaspur town of the state.)

The arrested individuals belong to a traditional hunting(Bawariya) tribe and were being monitored for the last few weeks before the covert operation was initiated through a network of informers and technical surveillance. Tracking the movement of suspects was extremely difficult because of their nomadic lifestyle and the code language they used during their conversations. On February 12, 2015, Dr. Nanak Singh, Assistant Superintendent of Police, Mukerian, formed two teams to catch the suspects red handed. The tip-off led the team to a house where the police found 11 Leopard skins, nine Asian small clawed otter skins and 95 kgs of leopard bones.  

Totaram, Sanju, Rohtas and Sadhu were arrested and during interrogation they revealed their involvement in the illegal trade of animal parts. They also gave information on their modus operandi and others who are part of this wildlife trade nexus. Acting on their information, the police conducted a raid and recovered an air rifle and tiger parts from another location. 

All the suspects were booked under section 9/39/49B/51 of the Wildlife (Protection) Act, 1972 by the Mukerian Police in Hoshiarpur district of Punjab. Asian small clawed otter, tiger and leopard are listed under the Schedule 1 of the Wild Life (Protection) Act, 1972. 

The average size of the seized leopard skins is around 8 feet by 4 feet while the biggest leopard hide is about 8.6 feet. The average size of the otter skins is around 3.9 feet by 1.3 feet. Meanwhile, leopard bones were put in four different gunny bags weighing a total of 94.370 kilograms. The seized tiger part was around 80 grams. The seizures were examined by RS Sharath, Inspector, and were later handed over to Mukerian police. 

During the investigation, the enforcement agencies found out that Bimla and Ramswaroop are the owners of the house from where the illegal wildlife articles were seized. It was also revealed that Sadhu’s father, Chandrabhan, and his uncles, Surajbhan and Sohram, were apprehended for their involvement in illegal trade in Tiger parts in the year 2013 and 2014 respectively. 

This is one of the biggest and most successful operations done in the last five years of which IFAW-WTI team was a part of. We must congratulate WCCB and Punjab Police for busting this network which is a great boost to fight against wildlife crime in India. We sincerely thank the enforcement agencies for being so proactive in following these cases and ensuring that perpetrators of such heinous crimes are brought to justice. 

The seized animal skins in police custody.
The seized animal skins in police custody.

Links:

Wildlife Crime Control App
Wildlife Crime Control App

WTI, with the support of Wildlife Crime Control Bureau (WCCB), has developed an Android based smartphone Wildlife Crime Control App (WccA) wherein users can report wildlife crimes from anywhere across the country using their phones! 

The WCCB is a statutory multi-disciplinary body established by the Government of India under the Ministry of Environment and Forests, to combat organized wildlife crime in the country.

This app is the first of its kind in the country and has an integrated digital version of the Wild Life (Protection) Act, 1972.  WTI formally handed over the app to WCCB in November during an event held at the India Habitat Centre, New Delhi.

The main feature of WccA is that whenever an individual reports a wildlife crime, the lead will be automatically delivered to a designated email id of WCCB. A cost and time-effective tool, the app also has the provision of sending anonymous reports to the WCCB, who will be the sole custodian of the collected information. Also, no details of the person reporting the crime will be shared without the prior consent of the individual. This interactive app has a simple User Interface (UI) and replaces written reporting and records.

The app is compatible with devices running on Android Jelly Bean (ver 4.3 or higher) and the minimum space requirement is 10MB and 512MB of free RAM with screen size of 4.5” or higher. 

India is home to about 1700 wild tigers. This is a little more than half of the world's wild tiger population. This App is a step towards giving the people a chance to help protect that which is so very dear to them - India's Natural Heritage. 

Your support to WTI's Enforcement project has been crucial to its growth and today, as the year turns, I reach out to you with a plea - for your continued support to our endeavour to protect some of the most beautiful animals in the world.

Here's wishing you a wonderful and fulfilling 2015!

From all of us here at Wildlife Trust of India

A young tiger in the forests of South India
A young tiger in the forests of South India

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Organization Information

Wildlife Trust of India

Location: Noida, Uttar Pradesh - India
Website: http:/​/​www.wti.org.in
Project Leader:
Radhika Bhagat
Noida, Uttar Pradesh India