Mridula Vijairaghavan, Legal Advisor - WCS India, talking to Forest Range Officers and Deputy Forest Range Officers of Telangana State Forest Department about Wildlife Crime Investigation
Mannanur: Forest Range Officers and Deputy Forest Range Officers of Telangana State Forest Department working in and around Amrabad Tiger Reserve participated in the Combating Wildlife Trafficking Workshop organized by WCS-India on 22-23rd January 2019. The workshop was held in the Environmental Education Center at Amrabad Tiger Reserve. Mr. Munindra, (APCCF, Administration and Wildlife, Telangana) Mr. Shantaram (DFO, Nalgonda), Mr. M. Joji (DFO, Nagarkarnool), Mr. Bhabji M. Rao (DFO, Gadwal & Wanaparthy), and Mr. S. Venkateshwaru (FDO Amrabad) were also a part of the two-day workshop.
Mridula addressing the participants about the various stages involved in a Wildlife Crime Investigation
Mridula Vijairaghavan, Legal Advisor at WCS-India began the workshop with an introduction to Wildlife Crime in India. She talked about the connections between organized illegal wildlife trade and radical terrorist groups. She also spoke about prohibitions, procedures, penalties and powers concerned with the Wildlife Protection Act that can be useful to the forest department to deter wildlife trafficking. Mridula also talked in detail about making use of proper investigation kits for wildlife crime investigations.
Participants carrying out seizure of evidences from a mock wildlife crime scene involving hunting of a tiger
Participants were grouped into teams and made to carry out two simulation exercises for mock wildlife crime cases involving, hunting of a tiger and, illegal trafficking of pangolin scales.
Participants talk about challenges they face in handling wildlife crime cases
Post the completion of the workshop, participants wrote Wildlife Offence Reports based on the mock wildlife crime cases. Imran Siddiqui, Assistant Director for Conservation Science with WCS-India spoke about the international wildlife crime syndicates, and about how local villagers are baited to source wild animals for these syndicates. He talked in details about the hunting of wild animals with the use of ‘snares’. He highlighted some of the vulnerable places in a protected area that are targeted for hunting wild animals.
Mridula briefed participants on the various stages while registering a wildlife offence. Some of these were: detection of a wildlife crime, search of wildlife crime scene, seizure of evidences, arrest of accused, and filing of a preliminary offence report. She mentioned the need for forest department staff to maintain case diaries that include detailed descriptions of the wildlife crime incident. She also emphasized on need to avoid making statements not backed with evidences during court trials for wildlife offences.
Mr. A. Shankaran, Retired Deputy Conservator of Forests, Telangana State Forest Department spoke to participants about the various sections within the Wildlife Protection Act. This session was followed with a Mock Court Trial of a wildlife case. Participants were made to role play and defend their wildlife case to the judge.
The workshop concluded with Imran Siddiqui addressing the participants and advising them on the need to mandatorily report wildlife crime cases in the state, which is at present one of the lowest among other states in India.
DFO A. Shankarana, DFO Shantaram, DFO M. Joji, DFO Bhabji M. Rao , FDO S. Venkateshwaru, Imran Siddiqui, Mridula Vijairaghavan, Forest Department Officers and WCS-India Staff at the workshop