A two-day training workshop was held to educate and strengthen the front line forest department staff of North Bengal on various aspects of reptile care and rescue. The training was jointly offered by the Dept. of Forest, West Bengal and WCS-India. Shyama Prasad Pandey from the NGO, SPOAR (Society for Protecting Ophiofauna and Animal Rights) was part of the training team.
Forest Guards, Beat Officers, Rangers, PDLs [Packaged daily labours of the dept] and ADFOs were informed about reptile rescues in detail. Turtle rescues were also part of the discussion after recent events during the flood which saw many of the species seized and rescued. Issues such as Illegal wildlife trade, building intelligence network and basic legal aspects were also addressed.
Anirban Chaudhuri from WCS-India, an expert on reptile rescue and rehabilitation training, talked about the common turtles of West Bengal, importance of turtles, schedules, punishments, trade routes, initial care after seizure and rehabilitation process, etc. He also held an interactive session on other reptiles in trade such as tokay gecko, monitor lizards and various products which are sold in the illegal market. Shyama Prasad Pandey presented a session focused on common snakes and myths on snakes.
The next day saw Anirban and Shyma hold a joint session where guards were introduced to various equipment used to rescue venomous snakes. The session highlighted the vital methods during/after a rescue, care and rehabilitation of reptiles. The next session gave the guards the opportunity to learn about snake eggs; artificial incubation technique and the procedures to be followed for hatchling care and release.
The workshop concluded with the trainees attending mock sessions on real-life reptile rescue situation, collection and incubation of eggs as also first aid lessons for snake bite.
There were 34 participants in all, from Gorumara wildlife division, Kalimpong division, Jalpaiguri wildlife division, Kurseong division, Buxa Tiger Reserve (E) division. WCS-India is grateful to CCF Wildlife (North) Sri Ujjal Ghosh and DFO Nisha Goswami for their co-operation in making the training successful.