Foresters build their legal capacity for effective wildlife prosecution and conviction
Forty-two participants from the Corbett Tiger Reserve, Kalagarh Tiger Reserve, Terai West Forest Division, Ramnagar Forest Division, Pilibhit Tiger Reserve (UP) and Amangarh Tiger Reserve (UP) attended the workshop to understand the nuances of illegal wildlife trade and the implementation of wildlife laws for curbing it including the legal procedures to investigate and prosecute a wildlife crime case.
In India extremely, low conviction rate in wildlife crime cases is seen as a major gap in wildlife law enforcement. TRAFFIC’s present workshop focused on improving the understanding of wildlife law, its implementation, filing of cases and other related legal issues. Many important and on-going wildlife cases were discussed and analyzed to enhance the knowledge and understanding of the participants.
The training was conducted by Shri R K Singh from LIFE, who discussed the provisions of Wildlife (Protection) Act, 1972 clause by clause, through group discussions, case laws and by referring to various case studies. This exercise helped to bring out and highlight the weaknesses of the forest staff in building a strong wildlife case, often overlooked by them that ultimately results in poor conviction rate in the court of law. Simultaneously in a very lucid manner, Shri Singh also detailed on how these gaps can be bridged and what steps need to be taken right from the beginning for making a strong case against wildlife criminals.
Mr Kapil Joshi, Chief Conservator of Forests, Kumaon Forest Division, Uttarakhand Forest Department said “Terai region of Uttarakhand and Uttar Pradesh hold a very rich diversity of wildlife, because of which, these areas are often targeted by wildlife criminals. A strong mechanism for nabbing them and ensuring they receive adequate quantum of punishment will prove to be a strong deterrent.”
Shri Amit Verma, Deputy Director, Corbett Tiger Reserve and Smt. Neha Verma, Deputy Forest Officer, Ramnagar, thanked TRAFFIC and WWF-India for organizing this unique and important workshop. They are hopeful that this enhancement of skill of their staff will lead to better wildlife conviction rates in future.
Dr Saket Badola, IFS, Head of TRAFFIC India said, “In India we have some of the best laws for forest and wildlife protection, however it is generally noticed that due to lacunae at the time of filing of wildlife cases or due to procedural lapses at the time of prosecution in the court of law, wildlife criminals often get away with very simple punishment. Therefore, the law fails to act as a strong deterrent for wildlife criminals. It is important that the field level staff is made to understand the important legal procedures and how they can contribute towards strengthening a wildlife case. It is the first time that a dedicated workshop on building legal capacity of frontline forest staff is organized by TRAFFIC in India”.
TRAFFIC plays a crucial role in identifying such gaps in wildlife law enforcement in India and works with State and National Governments to bridge these gaps. TRAFFIC has regularly conducted training programmes on various aspects such as forensics, legal procedures, species identification and others. TRAFFIC’s mission is to curb illegal wildlife trade and to help regulate legal wildlife trade so that it is not a threat to the species in the wild.