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Report: Indo-Russian Tiger Watch Programme (2013-14)
 Ten day long “Tiger Watch Programme”, jointly organized by International Fund for Animal Welfare-Wildlife Trust of India (IFAW-WTI) in collaboration with the Global Tiger Forum (GTF), ended with a lot of positive hope for the well being of wild tiger in both Russia and India. This year, tiger watch programme was conducted from 24th February to 4th March, 2014. Exchange of practical knowledge and information on tiger conservation in both the partner countries was the main goal of this training-cum-capacity building exercise. Along with two Russian Wildlife Inspectors - Mr. Voloshin Andrei and Mr. Zavedeev Sergei, Ms Skripnik Tatiana, Deputy Director of Department of RosPrirod Nadzor, Russia and Dr Anna Fillippova, Campaigner, IFAW-Russia also participated in this event.

The Tiger Watch Programme began with a formal interaction of Russian delegation with all staff members of WTI functionaries - Mr. Ashok Kumar, Vice Chairman, Mrs. Rupa Gandhi Chief of Social Entrepreneurship, Dr Sandeep Tiwari, Deputy Director and Dr Kavita Chalakkal, Head, Trade Control and Litigation, briefed the visitors on various conservation initiatives undertaken by WTI to secure natural heritage of India, including tiger, elephant and forests. Mr. Nishant Varma, Regional Deputy Director, Wildlife Crime Control Bureau, briefed the guests on the diversity of wildlife crime, their causes and steps taken to combat these in India. A demonstration on how to distinguish between real and fake tiger skin and how to identify other body parts of tiger, was made to them. The Delegated Secretary General of Global Tiger Forum and Deputy Inspector General of National Tiger Conservation Authority of India, Dr. S.P. Yadav gave the visiting team an overview of tiger conservation in India and the role of GTF in conserving tiger in its natural habitat in all Tiger Range Countries.

The team at Panna Tiger Reserve. Photo: Aniruddha Majumdar / IFAW-WTI

To have a firsthand field exposure in tiger conservation in India and to facilitate exchange of views and information at the ground level, the Russian team was taken to Panna Tiger Reserve (PTR) in India. Field Director of Panna, Mr. Rangaiah Sreenivasa Murthy updated the visitors on the latest information on the tiger re-introduction in this reserve. Russian wiildlife inspectors exchanged their departmental monogram with the Indian counterparts. The entire Russian delegation was impressed with the success achieved on tiger re-introduction in Panna, which had, not every long ago, lost all its tigers. The population of tiger gradually has built from 0 to 25 at present. The delegates were also briefed on the patrolling and wildlife rescue methods used in the tiger reserves (TRs) in the country. Along with Dr Aniruddha Majumder, the Technical Officer for the GTF seconded by WTI, Dr K Ramesh, Scientist, Wildlife Institute of India and his team demonstrated various modern monitoring equipments and techniques like radio-telemetry, camera trapping and use of un-manned air borne vehicle or drone for monitoring movement of important wild animals like tiger as also efficacy of various tiger conservation measures.  

Ms Skripnik Tatiana said, “Tiger Watch programme is one of the best programs I’ve ever participated in. It imparts excellent education through sharing of experience with real demonstration of activities to be remembered for ever……”.

Mr. Voloshin Andrei said, “Working with local villagers in Panna reserve is one of the very important initiatives for successful conservation of tigers and whole of the natural landscape. I will share the learning and experience to enrich management of natural habitats in my country…..”

Mr. Zavedeev Sergei said, “I’m deeply impressed with Panna reserve rangers’ monitoring schedule - 24 hours and 7days a week, 365days in a year. This system gives no chance to poachers to reach tigers. During our visit to GTF, we were introduced to remote system of monitoring……….”

The Russian delegates interacted with the Eco-Development Committee members from Baror village, situated on the fringes of PTR, and learnt about people’s participation to save forest ecosystem in India. They also participated in the night patrolling by vehicle, and were shown as to how the daily monitoring registers were maintained in the patrolling camps of the tiger reserve. Russian delegates were enthralled to see the rich wildlife in the reserve comprising a female tiger with cubs, leopard, black napped hare, porcupine, four horned antelope, jackal, pea fowl, mongoose, wild pig, chital, sambar, nilgai, three species of vultures (Red headed, Long billed and White-rumped) and mugger crocodile in the wild.

"Russian delegates were enthralled to see the rich wildlife in the reserve comprising a female tiger with cubs..." Photo: Aniruddha Majumdar / IFAW-WTI

Dr Anna Fillipova said, “Before the visit, I had known that India is one of the counties that put many efforts in conservation. But I couldn’t even imagine how high the level of nature protection within the territories of nature parks is. We were lucky to see the result of hard work done by very dedicated staff of Panna Tiger Reserve…..I suppose that Tiger Watch program is very important as information sharing platform for different levels of governmental staff engaged in nature protection. IFAW will continue developing and supporting this program in the future.”

Dr Jagdish Kishwan Chief Advisor to the ED & CEO, and Head Policy, Wildlife Trust of India, appreciating the continuation of Indo-Russian field exchanges in tiger conservation said “for overall success and well-being of tiger globally, such inter-country exposure of field executives in latest tiger conservation policies, techniques and management practices are a must, and the same should be encouraged and organized more frequently”.
As a symbol of friendship between both the participating countries, all four participants from Russia jointly planted varieties of saplings with the forest staff of Panna Tiger Reserve in the Karnawati Forest Campus.
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