WTI, Aircel Equip Karnataka STPF with Large Carnivore Conflict Management Gear

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WTI Veterinarian Dr Shantanu Kalambi handing over the safety equipment to Shri Shankaregowda, ACF, STPF

Handpost, Karnataka, April 25, 2017: Wildlife Trust of India (WTI), working in collaboration with the AIRCEL Save Our Tigers campaign, this morning presented the Special Tiger Protection Force (STPF) team stationed at Bandipur and Nagarhole Tiger Reserves with safety equipment to aid in the management of Human Wildlife Conflict situations.

WTI runs a Mobile Veterinary Service (MVS) unit in Bandipur Tiger Reserve in partnership with the Karnataka Forest Department and with support from AIRCEL Cellular Limited. This unit, which has been operational since 2015, is a means of rapidly responding to wildlife emergencies and addressing the needs of distressed wildlife through rescue, rehabilitation, conservation translocation, and the diagnosis and prevention of wildlife associated diseases.

The ability to create a controlled perimeter around the animal that only authorised personnel can enter is critical to a successful conflict mitigation operation

Working with the STPF team and frontline forest department personnel, this unit has till date attended over 20 cases of conflict involving large carnivores across the larger landscape that includes Bandipur Tiger Reserve, Nagarhole Tiger Reserve and Biligiriranga Hills Tiger Reserve.

Instances of conflict with tigers or leopards tend by their very nature to be chaotic and fractious and it has been found on several occasions that the lives of MVS and STPF personnel have been placed at risk, whether from the animal involved or from angry crowds seeking retaliation for loss of life or property. Crowd management has in fact emerged as one of the most crucial aspects of conflict mitigation: the presence of unruly mobs can significantly increase the chances of the conflict animal escaping or being killed, or people on the scene getting injured. The ability to demarcate a controlled perimeter around the conflict animal that only authorised personnel can enter is critical to a successful operation, and the safety equipment now provided to the STPF team, which includes items such as body armour, shields, helmets etc, will allow for exactly that.

An STPF team member in the new safety gear provided by Wildlife Trust of India and AIRCEL Cellular Limited

In addition to this equipment the STPF is being provided with safety nets to aid in capture and a lightweight, strong and completely covered carnivore transportation crate that will enable a captured animal to be kept out of the public gaze, reducing its stress levels and preventing any untoward incident as it is taken to safety.

The equipment handover event this morning was attended by Shri Shankaregowda, Assistant Conservator of Forests, STPF; Shri Rudresh G, Range Forest Officer, STPF; and Smt Ramya PS, Range Forest Officer, STPF along with other members of the STPF team. Abhishek Narayanan, Head – Wildlife Rescue and Rehabilitation, and Dr Shantanu Kalambi, Veterinarian, MVS Bandipur represented WTI at the event.

Thanking WTI and AIRCEL for the safety equipment, the Karnataka Forest Department’s ACF, STPF Shri Shankaregowda said: “This equipment will be very useful during our team’s field operations. It will not only improve the safety of our personnel, but with proper training, enable them to attend to conflict related emergencies promptly and effectively.”

“The need for specialised safety equipment and the large carnivore transport crate was deeply felt seeing the number of conflict cases being reported from the region” said WTI’s Abhishek Narayanan. “However, equipment alone cannot guarantee the safety of field personnel in incidents of large carnivore conflict. WTI is consequently not just handing over the equipment, but training the STPF team in using it effectively for their protection, particularly in the creation of an operational area within which they can work without interference from the crowds that generally gather in such situations.”

“We will provide, over the next couple of weeks, specialised training to the STPF team in the proper use of this equipment”, said WTI’s Dr Shantanu Kalambi. “A series of mock drills will be conducted with a focus on the planning and execution of successful captures in large carnivore conflict scenarios.”

Representatives from the Karnataka Forest Department and Wildlife Trust of India during the equipment handover ceremony

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