Jalpaiguri, West Bengal : Wildlife Trust of India’s Right of Passage team, with support from Stop Poaching Fund (SPF), launched its first Green Corridor Champions project of North Bengal on 27th July 2018 in collaboration with Society for Protecting Ophiofauna and Animal Rights (SPOAR).
Based out of Jalpaiguri, West Bengal SPOAR is a congregation of people who work and protect nature and wildlife habitats against development threats in our natural heritage. It engages people in scientific field research and education to promote the understanding and action necessary for a sustainable environment. With a strength of around 60 members spanning across different parts of Bengal, they have collaborated with WTI to monitor and protect five elephant corridors, namely; Apalchand-Mahananda, Gorumara-Apalchand, Apalchand-Kalimpong (via Sylee T. G.), Apalchand-Kalimpong (via Meenglass T.G.) and Chapramari-Kalimpong.
The complete program was divided into two days of work schedule, starting with the formal inception of the project initiative on first day and a field training and technical workshop the next day.
The inaugural event was organized at the Panchayat Samiti Conference Hall in Malbazar. This was the first of the series of the stakeholder workshops planned for this year.
The event was witnessed by 50-60 people ranging from the forest department, BDO office, tea estate labour line workers, school and college students and faculty members, media representatives and Researchers.
Mr Ujjwal Ghosh, CCF, Northern Circle opened the session with information on the status of corridors in North Bengal, Human-Elephant Conflict incidents and the measures being been taken by the Forest Department like the early warning system, HEC mitigation squads etc. This was reiterated by Ms Nisha Goswami, DFO, Gorumara Wildlife Division, Northern Circle and both of them extended their support towards the project. Upasana Ganguly from WTI gave a presentation on the Right of Passage concept, the vision of the GCC project and the major roles and responsibilities of the tasks to be undertaken. Famous folksinger and songwriter Nilkamal Barai performed onstage wherein his composition touched upon all factors responsible for elephant habitat loss in the region and the on-going rampant tree-felling in Lataguri, Gorumara as well.
Mr Rajen Pradhan shared his own journalism experiences and knowledge on incidents of human-animal conflicts and the changing scenario in recent times. Mr Sudhir Roy, a victim of Human-Leopard Conflict, shared his experience and the possible reasons behind it as per the perception of the local community. Secretary, SPOAR, Mr S. P. Pandey added his view on the elephant issues in Duars and how the coordinated actions of all departments can help tackle this issue. Mr Bijay Dhar, forest staff and working President of Paschimbanga Rajya Sarkari Karmachari Federation (Forest Wing) gave out important ‘Do’s and Dont’s to avoid accidental encounters with Elephants or Leopards.
Mrs Koushalya Roy, Sabhapati of Mal Panchayat Samiti closed the meeting by congratulating the team and emphasised the needs for such projects in Duars. This was followed by a street play by the SPOAR Team with the theme ‘Elephants have a right to live’ which got the attention of another 50-60 individuals who came forward to listen to what this young and motivated group of young people had to say to them.
A corridor monitoring training workshop was organized for the GCC team members at the Murti Conference Hall at Murti. Ms Upasana Ganguly and Mr SP Pandey briefed the team in corridor monitoring methodology, identification of elephants-categorisation of age groups, elephant behaviour et al. This was followed by a field session on grid-based trail survey for data collection. The trainers demonstrated the complete survey procedure in practice including the use of data collection apps and collection procedures.