Tipeshwar Wildlife Sanctuary, Maharashtra, March 29, 2018: Working in partnership with the Maharashtra Forest Department and the Japan Tiger and Elephant Fund (JTEF), Wildlife Trust of India’s (WTI) Wild Aid division recently organised a two-day training workshop for nature guides of Tipeshwar Wildlife Sanctuary, a 148.63 sq km Protected Area (PA) in Maharashtra’s Yavatmal district. Organised with support from Dr Ramzan Virani, the Honorary Wildlife Warden (HWLW) of Pandharkawda, the workshop was held on March 26 and 27.
The various State Forest Departments appoint nature guides and naturalists to accompany tourists into national parks and sanctuaries, their role being not just to spot and identify wildlife but also to educate the tourists in aspects of wildlife conservation and management. A majority of these guides/naturalists are from communities located around the PAs, which is important since it makes fringe communities stakeholders in wildlife conservation. Improving their knowledge in aspects of conservation, ecology and guest relations has the potential to help them generate more income, while furthering conservation awareness and action among tourists who visit these PAs.
Thirty-two nature guides from two gates of Tipeshwar WLS participated in the training programme, which was inaugurated by KM Abharana, Deputy Conservator of Forests, Pandharkawada, and Pramod Panchbhai, Divisional Forest Officer- Wildlife, Pandharkawada. Assistant Conservator of Forests Sandeep Chawan presided over all the sessions to ensure the programme’s smooth functioning.
Sanjay Karkare, Regional Director, BNHS was invited as the primary resource person and addressed the participants on the role of nature guides in eco-tourism, handling guests and keeping them engaged during safaris, and the ecology of Tipeshwar WLS. Prafulla Bhamburkar (Senior Project Advisor) and Nikhil Dandekar (Biologist) from WTI’s Vidarbha Tiger Project team were also present and held interactive sessions on biodiversity and its importance. Nikhil Dandekar conducted a field exercise wherein the guides were shown how to identify animal tracks and signs, and keep guests engaged and interested during safaris.
Improving the guides’ knowledge of conservation, ecology and guest relations will potentially help them generate more income, while also furthering conservation awareness among tourists.
Dr Ramzan Virani conducted sessions on the role of nature guides in protecting the forests, and the importance of Protected Areas and how they benefit local communities. He discussed the general ecological and conservation issues that prevail in Tipeshwar and provided his perspective on how they could be tackled.
Each of the participants was given a field kit comprising a backpack, a T-shirt, a water bottle, a cap and field boots as the programme came to a close.
“The workshop was a fantastic initiative”, said DFO Pramod Panchbhai. “Dr Virani and WTI have conducted an excellent training programme and provided the guides with field gear specially selected for daily use. We would love to host more such intense courses in the future.”
“This was an interactive training programme and was very well organised”, said ACF Sandeep Chawan. “We had found the guides to be lacking confidence and I believe this training has remedied that. It was especially useful to have aspects of the history and ecology of Tipeshwar discussed, since this will help the guides keep their guests engaged even in the absence of a tiger sighting. The field kits provided are also of good quality and will be very useful for the guides.”