India-Nepal border tighten the reins to stop cross border illegal wildlife trade
The training workshop at VTR was attended by 62 officials representing the departments of Forest, Police, and Revenue, officials of the Para Military forces, the Sashastra Suraksha Bal (SSB), and about 10 officers from Nepal representing the departments of Wildlife and Parks, Army, Attorney, and Armed Police. The field staff of TRAFFIC India and WWF-India also attended the training workshop.
As a strategic approach TRAFFIC India has been concentrating on capacity building and enhancement of enforcement support work in vulnerable Tiger Reserves (TRs) and Protected Areas (PAs), which have special sensitivities due to proximity to international borders and traditional illegal trade routes. Besides, TRAFFIC India specifically works with the PAs and TRs that have access to limited resources and greater needs for wildlife law enforcement interventions. A similar programme involving the officers of Nepal and India was organized in Dudwa Tiger Reserve in July 2016.
Interactive sessions during the three day workshop in VTR included inputs on latest trends of wildlife trade, trends in changing demands and supplies and their correlations, imparting skills in identification of specimens in illegal wildlife trade, thematic trade issues focusing on reptiles and birds with special focus on turtles and tortoises, new tools and techniques useful in combating illegal wildlife trade and wildlife crime, 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 in conducting domestic and transnational wildlife crimes, and forensics and DNA tools for collecting and establishing evidence. After giving them demonstration on assembling and using deep search metal detector (DSMD), the participants were engaged in applying the tools, techniques and legal provisions learned through the various modules, hands-on, on the simulated crime scenes.
The feedback from the participant was very encouraging. The participants reinforced the usefulness of such intensive training workshops and stated that it would amount to considerable enhancement of their functional abilities in tackling wildlife crimes. They spoke about using the learned techniques given through various modules in their day to day handling of wildlife crime.
The participants from Nepal also showed great interest in the workshop and that was exhibited through their active discussions and participation in various technical sessions. The Nepalese officials also stated great usefulness of this training workshop in terms of transborder coordination for tackling wildlife crimes involving tiger, elephant, rhino, pangolin, plants and timber, and other species demanded by illegal international trade.
Valmiki Tiger Reserve is one of the earliest constituted Tiger Reserves in India and is especially vulnerable due to its critical location along the borders of Bihar and Uttar Pradesh in India and Nepal in the terai regions. The Tiger Reserve had lost several tigers in the past few years to poaching, which was particularly triggered off by gangs operating across the borders of India and Nepal and were found to be linked to international tiger trade syndicates. The Tiger Reserve suffers due to shortage of protection staff, funds, and other resources and is very adversely affected by habitat fragmentation due to rising human population, irrigation projects and other developmental activities which are mostly haphazard and not in sync with the long term vision on wildlife conservation in this region.
TRAFFIC India gave away 16 forensic kits to Valmiki Tiger Reserve and six kits to the Nepalese delegates. Four most advanced DSMDs were handed over to the Field Director, VTR for improving detection of snares, traps and ballistic materials used in commissioning wildlife poaching. Few years ago TRAFFIC India had deployed two trained sniffer dogs in VTR and through this workshop provided further insight into a more productive use of sniffer dogs in combating wildlife crime.
Dr Shekhar Kumar Niraj, Head of TRAFFIC India who led the sessions said, “As the year 2016 comes close to its end, a march towards a coordinated action against wildlife crime is more definite now. From the experience of various such workshops that TRAFFIC India has conducted from time to time and the first national workshop on capacity building for combating wildlife crime that was attended by 20 states in India and several central agencies and paramilitary forces earlier this year, every participating agency and department, including the defense and paramilitary forces appeared keen in joining hands for combating wildlife crime. Nonetheless, evolving a force multiplier, which is institutionalized and smoothly driven, could be a real challenge as 2017 sets in. The march would be, then, stronger and more definitive”.