GUWAHATI, July 20: With an objective to raise the awareness level among its officials posted on various frontiers of the country including Northeast on gravity of wildlife crime and its impact on biodiversity and human health, a workshop was organized on Monday by the Section Headquarters (SHQ) of Sashastra Seema Bol (SSB) at Rangiya in Kamrup district of Assam in coordination with Wildlife Crime Control Bureau (WCCB), Government of India and Aaranyak, a biodiversity conservation organisation.
The workshop was attended by representatives from the 27th, 24th, 64th and 54th battalions and the officials from the SHQ itself. The programme was graced by the Deputy Inspector General of SHQ, SSB Rangiya, Jagdeep Pal Singh.
Three conservation leaders from Aaranyak and one official from WCCB attended the workshop as resource persons while two representatives – Ms. Binita and Ms. Ivy Farheen – of the Tiger research and Conservation Division (TRCD) of Aaranyak assisted in the workshop.
In the first technical session, Dr Bibhab Kumar Talukdar, Secretary General & CEO, Aaranyak flagged why wildlife crime prevention is necessary for consolidating national security. This was followed by a presentation by Dr Bibhuti Prasad Lahkar on Manas landscape and why it needs to be saved. Dr Lahkar is the Manas Landscape Administrator from Aaranyak.
Dr Talukdar said, “The undulating landscape of Northeast India makes it very unique in the country and hence its preservation is very important. Additionally, Manas is unique to Assam- being stretched across Indo-Nepal and Indo-Bhutan. Therefore, the efforts of the SSB personnel deployedalong the India-Bhutan border will make a huge difference in protection of wildlife resources of Manas landscape.”
He highlighted how illegal wildlife trade was intricately related to arms smuggling and terrorism that spreads across countries. “Socio-political unrest as induced by terrorism, can severely harm wildlife. Today’s poachers are very well connected and commit well-organized crimes in protected forest areas with sophisticated arms. Therefore, strict vigilance by enforcement agencies like SSB is crucial,” he added.
Dr Bibhuti P Lahkar highlighting the richness of Manas landscape said, “Manas National Park has 23 Schedule I animals under WLPA, 1972. It is also the only Park in Assam which has been accorded all 5 different statuses- national Park, wildlife sanctuary, World Heritage Site, Important Bird area and Biosphere Reserve. Which makes it one of the most important ecologically sensitive and important zones of Assam.”
Dr Lahkar, in response to a query on human-elephant conflict posed by the Assistant Commandant of 24th Battalion of SSB, Navneet Kr Yadav, said, the long-term solution to human-elephant conflict is nothing but regeneration of vegetation to ensure the elephants have enough foraging habitats outside human settlements.”
In the subsequent technical sessions, Dr. Jimmy Borah, Senior Manager with Legal and Advocacy Division of Aaranyak and Hiten Bora, Intelligence Assistant with WCCB dealt with various aspects of wildlife crime on a global perspective including intelligence gathering respectively.
Dr Jimmy Borah said,” The most common crimes related to the landscape of Manas are commercial timber extraction, snare and jaw trapping and machaan hunting. The enforcement agencies should try to understand the modus operandi of the different crimes and criminals to make patrolling more efficient. The only way we can tackle wildlife crime is by tackling both demands and supply of wildlife animals and their derivatives,”
Hiten Borah of WCCB commented that building an efficient and durable relation with the community is an essential pre-requisite to prevent wildlife crimes as the community is as much connected with government/enforcement officials as they are with poachers. “Hence, scanning, selection and trust-building is very important in the process of selecting a potential source of intelligence inputs on poachers,” he said.
“Hunting does not entail only killing the animal- any action which distresses wildlife, especially in protected areas, damaging the natural resources in these areas, teasing/chasing/disturbing cubs/juveniles of wild animals all entail hunting. Hunting also includes planning for poaching, “the WCCB official said.
Addressing the workshop, Jagdeep Pal Singh, DIG SSB said, “Although we are experts in the physical aspects of the field, we lack our knowledge of wildlife to a large extent. We need awareness to protect the landscape better.
“Young SSB officers attending the workshop would be immensely benefitted from explanations made by resource persons on provisions of the WLPA, 1972. With that and their knowledge of CrPC, the SSB official can do much better enforcement,” the DIG said promising to conduct more such workshops for SSB men with WCCB-Aaranyak.