Enforcement agencies gear up to fight wildlife crime in Kerala

Posted on
25 August 2015
The Wildlife Trade Monitoring Network-TRAFFIC and the wildlife conservation organization, WWF-India, in partnership with the Parambikulam Tiger Conservation Foundation and Wildlife Crime Control Bureau (WCCB) organized a two-day wildlife law enforcement capacity building training workshop at the Parambikulam Tiger Reserve-located in the interiors of the Western Ghats in Anaimalai-Parambikulam landscape, a home to 50 Tigers.  The workshop was held on 20-21 August 2015 and was attended by over 55 enforcement officials that included forest officials from 13 forest divisions of Kerala, officials from Police Department, and officials of the Customs and Central Excise Department from the state of Kerala.

 Speaking at the inaugural , Mr Anjan Kumar, Deputy Director- Parambikulam Tiger Reserve and Chairperson of the Parambikulam Tiger Reserve Foundation mentioned that some of the staff who  had earlier attended the three state TRAFFIC workshop at Coimbatore in November 2014 shared  highly positive experience and this led to further talks between the Parambikulam Tiger Conservation Foundation and TRAFFIC to organize a similar kind of workshop at Parambikulam Tiger Reserve.  The workshop evolved by TRAFFIC is now considered crisp and significant for building enforcement capacity of the officials.

Dr Shekhar Kumar Niraj, Head of TRAFFIC in India, stressed on the importance of the Anaimalai-Parambikulam landscape, which is located in the Nellampathy-Anaimalai landscape of the Southern Western Ghats and is known for its rich biodiversity,  high endemism, and sensitivity for poaching and illegal wildlife trade.
DrNiraj, further gave an overview of illegal wildlife trade in India in the first technical session during the workshop. He presented the latest information on trade trends  with special focus on the Western Ghats landscape, trade drivers, species involved in trade and domestic and international demands, various drivers of illegal wildlife trade and poaching.

He also said, "Recent information has shown that the age group of individuals involved in this trade has considerably reduced and now children from the age of nine to ten years are being taught poaching techniques and trade mechanisms, whereas highly educated youths of India are now indulging in trading of high demand wildlife species. This will potentially lead into serious socio-economic problems in future.”

Mr Varun Kapoor, Inspector General of Police (IGP) and Director, Police Radio Training School in Indore, Madhya Pradesh who was one of the key resource personnel at the workshop  highlighted the need for  collaborative efforts between police and forest official to effectively combat the menace of wildlife crime and illegal trade in the country. Interactive sessions were conducted by him on the use of intelligence collection and collation during the workshop.

The resource team including experts from various fields of law and enforcement conducted specialized sessions during the workshop. A session on wildlife laws and applications of corroborative laws was conducted by a senior lawyer, Dr M.S. Kachhawa. The sessions on species and specimen identification, DNA fingerprinting and wildlife forensics were led by Dr S.P. Goyal, Scientist Emeritus at the renowned Wildlife Institute of India located at Dehradun.

Mr A. Madhivanan from the Wildlife Crime Control Bureau of India (WCCB) discussed intelligence collection and issues surrounding important species in illegal trade while helping the participants to familiarize themselves with real samples of confiscated wildlife contrabands. He also conducted a session on market survey and confiscation of wildlife products for learning on identification of wildlife parts and derivatives commonly found in illegal wildlife trade.Special sessions on specific faunal groups in trade were conducted by Dr B.C. Choudhury, an eminent herpetologist and most known marine and coastal species scientist in India. He elucidated how marine and coastal environment remains elusive and threatened due to lack of awareness and lack of skills in identification of species and their distributions and values in trade.

A session on bird species in illegal trade was conducted by Mr Abrar Ahmed, a distinguished ornithologist and trade expert. Participants also received an intensive hands-on field training session on surveillance, seizure and interrogation, wildlife crime scene investigation, identifying and dismantling traps set up for poaching, interrogation of suspects, sample collection and packaging, utilization of deep search metal detectors (DSMDs) by Tamil Nadu based Special Task Force expert trainers.

The participants shared their experiences during both the technical and field sessions.  The officials also discussed several issues they face during the course of seizures, reporting and detaining suspected poachers. Several regional linkages to poaching and illegal trade in Southern Western Ghats were highlighted, including the growing domestic trade in the southern Western Ghats and the ignorance to several non charismatic lesser known species. The police and customs officials were keen to learn about the best practice approach for curbing illegal wildlife trade. They raised concern that due to lack of training on species identification, sample collection, wildlife investigative procedures, wildlife laws, their potential in combating wildlife crime is only partially used. They were keen to learn more and contribute to combating wildlife crimes.

Mr Pramod Krishnan, Chief Conservator of Forests and Field Director, Parambikulam Tiger Reserve mentioned that specialised workshops for customs and police officials should be conducted to evolve a multi-agency support. Customs officials are posted at international sea and airports that serve as transit routes for wildlife trafficking. To this, Dr Shekhar Niraj mentioned that TRAFFIC and WWF will be able to organize a workhop for police and custom officials, at cutting edge levels, in Kochi- a major international cargo port in Kerala later this year.

An open feedback session was conducted at the workshop, where representatives of Police, Forest and Customs department provided their learning experience and feedbacks. Police and Customs and Excise officials requested for separate specialized training on wildlife trafficking for their departments.  The participants expressed very positive feedback of use of the skills demonstrated to them and reaffirmed using them in their day to day duties.

Dr V.T. Kandasamy, Field Director of Anaimalai Tiger Reserve concluded the training workshop and urged that more field level workshops should be organized in the Anaimalai-Parambikulam landscape as these  also help promote interstate cooperation for the cause of wildlife conservation and protection. TRAFFIC handed over the deep search metal detector to Parambikulam Tiger Reserve, after giving a hands-on session on its use.
Parambikulam Tiger Conservation Foundation, while expressing deep satisfaction, thanked TRAFFIC and WWF-India for organizing this training workshop and for bringing well known domain experts from across the country.


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