Local youth from fringe villages around Kaziranga National Park with IFAW-WTI team members and other wildlife experts during the Pre-flood Awareness Meeting held at CWRC
CWRC, Kaziranga National Park, June 14, 2017: A Pre-flood Awareness Meeting for select youth from villages located on the fringes of Kaziranga National Park was organised at the Centre for Wildlife Rehabilitation and Conservation (CWRC) – the wildlife rescue, care and rehabilitation facility jointly run by the International Fund for Animal Welfare (IFAW), Wildlife Trust of India (WTI) and Assam Forest Department – on June 13.
The meeting, the first of five such awareness events targeted at local youth that will be conducted this year, was attended by 16 community members from the Kohora and Panbari areas under Kaziranga National Park’s Central Forest Range.
The annual monsoon floods that inundate large portions of Kaziranga are beneficial to the park’s vast wetland ecosystem, but bring in their wake widespread displacement of wildlife. This results in an increase in human-wildlife conflict and as such demands the formulation of a systematic wildlife safety plan that involves local communities, who are important stakeholders.
IFAW-WTI and the Assam Forest Department organise a series of pre-flood awareness meetings every year. In 2016 these meetings were attended by the village heads of Kaziranga Mouza in the Golaghat district of Assam (covering the Central and Eastern Ranges of Kaziranga). A strategic decision was taken to involve local youth this year since it was found that several of them had been involved in unnecessary wildlife rescues in previous years, often endangering both themselves and the animals involved, and increasing the chances of human-wildlife conflict.
The Pre-flood Awareness series aims to provide basic knowledge on wildlife safety to stakeholders affected by displaced wildlife during the floods in Kaziranga
The meeting on June 13 consequently focused on educating participants about basic wildlife safety protocols to be followed during the annual floods. Uttam Saikia, the Honorary Wildlife Warden of Kaziranga National Park began proceedings by explaining the necessity of such pre-flood awareness training for those volunteering to save wildlife in crisis situations. WTI Joint Director and CWRC centre-in-charge Dr Rathin Barman spoke about the challenges that both people and wildlife faced during the floods, and how these could be tackled while causing the least possible disturbance to wildlife in distress. CWRC veterinarians Dr Panjit Basumatary and Dr Samshul Ali provided a veterinary and wild rescue perspective on the flood crisis and explained how volunteers could help CWRC Mobile Veterinary Service teams ensure the betterment of distressed wildlife. Dilip Deori, Manager and Project lead of WTI’s Karbi-Anglong Conservation Project spoke about the importance of securing animal corridors during the floods.
Also present on the occasion were Dr Bibhab Talukdar, Secretary General and CEO, Aaranyak and Chairman, IUCN SSC Asian Rhino Specialist Group, and Kaushik Barua, CEO, Assam Elephant Foundation. Both eminent wildlife experts shared their experiences in the field with the participating youth, explaining the importance of wildlife rescues and of ensuring the safety of rescuers during any wildlife crisis.
“Our aim with the Pre-flood Awareness series is to provide basic knowledge on wildlife safety to different stakeholders that are affected by displaced wildlife during the floods in Kaziranga National Park”, said WTI’s Dr Rathin Barman. “The meetings this year will, we believe, have a significant impact on the youth from fringe villages, helping to mitigate human-wildlife conflict while minimising the number of unnecessary wildlife rescues.”
Dr Bibhab Talukdar, Secretary General and CEO, Aaranyak; Kaushik Barua, CEO, Assam Elephant Foundation; and Dr Rathin Barman, WTI Joint Director and Centre-in-charge, CWRC interact with local youth during the Pre-flood Awareness Meeting held at CWRC on June 13.