Wildlife law enforcement agencies gear up to fight wildlife crime in Central India
Seoni Forest Division is one such critical Forest Division in Central India, as it links Kanha Tiger Reserve and Pench Tiger Reserve. Analysis of Tiger mortality from 2004-2006 indicates that the region has significant representation. Moreover, the region is also known for hunting tribes which are reportedly well connected with illegal wildlife trade syndicates.
To strengthen wildlife law enforcement capacity in the region to curb wildlife crime, TRAFFIC, a wildlife trade monitoring network operating as a programme division of WWF-India, along with the Madhya Pradesh Forest Department had organised a two day workshop on 27-28 March 2017 at Seoni for the enforcement officials of both Madhya Pradesh and Maharashtra. The training workshop was attended by 80 officials representing the departments of Forest (53), Police (15) from Madhya Pradesh and Forest (12) from Maharashtra. The field staff of TRAFFIC in India also attended the training workshop.
The training programme included inputs on latest trends in illegal wildlife trade, trends in changing demands and supplies, laws governing domestic and international trade in wildlife, techniques of intelligence collection and collation, digital intelligence, tackling wildlife crime in cyber space, standard techniques in search, seizure and interrogation of wildlife criminals, threats of misuse of social media, forensics tools for collecting and establishing evidence, importance of wildlife sniffer and tracking dog squads and wildlife crime scene investigation – which will all assist the enforcement officials in conducting wildlife seizure, nabbing poachers and curbing wildlife crime.
The feedback on the workshop was overwhelming. Mr. Charanjeet Singh Mann, Chief Conservator of Forests, Seoni stressed upon the need for such customised training programmes dealing with wildlife crime as there is limited training given to officers to tackle this threat. He said that such workshops must be conducted on a regular basis so as to enhance the capacities within the department, with special emphasis on the territorial divisions as these divisions do not get adequate attention.
Merwyn Fernandes, Coordinator for TRAFFIC in India said that after the workshop, participants reiterated the usefulness of this intensive training workshop and stated that it had introduced them to new knowledge, tools and technology available to curb wildlife crime. The training helps to enhance their functional abilities in tackling wildlife crimes, if the techniques learned are used in their day-to-day handling of wildlife crime. Most participants requested for longer sessions and a complete five-day training module. The participants also pointed to a clear improvement in coordination among officials of various key agencies attending the workshop.
Mr. Mann further suggested that Divisional Forest Divisions from Madhya Pradesh and Maharashtra need to cooperate and coordinate with each other on a regular basis to formulate and execute strategies for combating wildlife crime in the region.
TRAFFIC gave away 10 wildlife forensic kits to Seoni Forest Division and 10 to Maharashtra Forest Department. These kits will help the Departments to follow a required protocol for collection of wildlife sample for forensic analysis, crucial for effective wildlife crime conviction. TRAFFIC is positive that the knowledge gained through this workshop will go a long way in enabling the Forest Departments in tackling the growing menace of illegal wildlife crime.