“This is the last point where you will get the mobile network”, warned my driver as we drove through the thick jungles of Kali Tiger Reserve, Karnataka in the Western Ghats. It was past sunset already and I looked around hoping to catch sight of a leopard or maybe some elephants before we reached our destination at Kulgi Nature Camp, where our team awaited our arrival.
Now, in all my years travelling through different forests landscapes across the country, I have seen some of the most beautiful wild landscapes, some of which have moved me beyond words. Kali Tiger Reserve is absolutely among the top 5 on that list. The stunning River Kali flows languidly between the hills, giving life to the reserve, the wildlife and the millions of people living in the region.
Previously known as Dandeli-Anshi Tiger Reserve is one of the largest Protected areas in the country and has a strong and dedicated force of forest staff protecting it day and night.
We were there as part of WTI’s continuing efforts under its Van Rakshak Project to train, equip and boost the morale of frontline forest staff across the country. Wildlife Trust of India (WTI), in partnership with the Karnataka Forest Department and with support from Fondation SEGRE was conducting a 3 days Wildlife Crime Prevention training for the staff of Kali Tiger Reserve.
The training curriculum includes legal and enforcement aspects of the Wild Life (Protection) Act, 1972, as well as wildlife crime prevention components such as the basics of anti-poaching patrolling techniques, intelligence gathering, informer network and handling, search and seizure, interrogation, hunting communities, crime scene investigation and the preparation of Preliminary Offence Reports. Trainees were also briefed on relevant provisions of the Indian Evidence Act, Indian Penal Code and the Code of Criminal Proceedings, and the powers conferred on them therein for the prosecution of wildlife crimes.
B.V.Patil, Director & Conservator of Forests, Kali Tiger Reserve gave his much needed support and advice for conducting the training as well as greatly encouraged the forest staff to render their duties with full dedication.
Shridhar D Bhat, Assistant Professor from College of Forestry, Sirsi Karnataka commenced the workshop with a session on the importance of wildlife and forests.
Practical exercises on Crime scene investigations were conducted by Rajshekar, CPI, CCB from Department of police, Karnataka and Chandrashekar, Assistant Director from Regional Forensic Science Laboratory, Mysore. For the purpose of making the exercises engaging, the officers were divided into teams and then evaluated on the basis of their performance.
Nagaraj Bhatt from WTI took a session on conducting anti snare walks which were followed by a session on wildlife laws by WTI Advocate Sudheer K.S.
VG Bandi, Public Prosecutor (Rtd.) Sirsi briefed the officers on the detailed procedure as well as the nuances in criminal cases. The event was graced by the presence of APCCF B.P Ravi and CCF Ashok Basarkod, who motivated the staff on the responsibility of individual officers for wildlife conservation. Field kits were distributed on the last day and certificate issued, the program ended on a successful note.
WTI has been conducting such Wildlife Crime Prevention Training programmes under its Van Rakshak Project (VRP) since 2001. Over 17100 frontline forest personnel have been trained in over 138 Protected Areas across 18 states. VRP follows a multi-pronged strategy with four thrust areas abbreviated as TEAM: Training, Equipping, Awareness and Morale Boosting, to build capacity and strengthen the spirit of personnel in tough field conditions.
About the Author: Radhika Bhagat is the Division head and Co-ordinator for Wildlife Crime Control Division at WTI. You can reach out to her at email@example.com