25th to 27th of June, 2019: WCS-India in collaboration with the Directorate of Forests, West Bengal and the Wildlife Crime Control Bureau Eastern Region (WCCB, ER) organized a 3-day capacity building workshop at Gorumara Wildlife Division, Jalpaiguri in North West Bengal. The workshop was attended by 32 Forest Guards, Beat Officers, and Range Officers from the following wildlife divisions: Gurumara, Jaldapara, Darjeeling and Buxa. The training focused on building capacity of forest officers to understand the scale of wildlife trade, impacts of wildlife trafficking, protocols to be followed during investigation, intelligence gathering, identification of animals and their parts in illegal trade and powers entrusted to the forest officers under India’s Wild Life (Protection) Act, 1972.
DP Bankhwal, Project Leader, CWT, WCS-India addressing the participants
The workshop was inaugurated by Mr. G.P Chetri, IFS, Chief Conservator of Forests Northern Circle and Mr. Subhankar Sengupta, IFS, Chief Conservator of Forests and Field Director, Buxa Tiger Reserve and Nisha Goswami, IFS, DFO, Gorumara Wildlife Division. The officers stressed on importance of higher conviction rates to deter wildlife crime and steps such as strong intelligence networks and proper filing of cases. and highlighted the role of such trainings in exposing to participants to deal with real life crime situations.
Mr. D.P. Bankhwal, IFS, Principal Chief Conservator of Forests and Chief Wildlife Warden (retd.) and Project Leader, Counter Wildlife Trafficking (CWT), WCS-India spoke about his experience in the Assam Forest Department and urged senior officers to be proactive in visiting the field. Mr. Agni Mitra, IFS, Deputy Director, WCCB (Eastern Region) kicked off the workshop by informing the participants about the objectives of the 3-day workshop.
Sudip Ghosh (Intelligence Assistant, WCCB ER) taking the session on ground intelligence gathering and surveillance
The resource persons included Mr. Agni Mitra (Regional Deputy Director, WCCB ER), Arnab Basu (Inspector, WCCB), Sudip Ghosh (Intelligence Assistant, WCCB), Mr. Anirban Chaudhuri, Training Co-ordinator (CWT team, WCS-India) and Advocate Samir Majumder.
The first technical session was led by Mr. Chaudhuri on wildlife values of North Bengal. Mr. Chaudhuri also highlighted ‘blind spots’ such as leopards, pangolins, freshwater turtles and tortoises which traditionally receive little conservation attention. Other technical sessions included wildlife crime scenario in India (by Mr. Agni Mitra,), legal provisions related to wildlife crimes in India (by Advocate Samir Majumder).
Mr. Agni Mitra, Regional Deputy Director, WCCB ER, explaining how to go about a crime scene scenario
On day two, the workshop started with a session on intelligence collection and surveillance by Mr. Ghosh, followed by Mr. Majumdar's session on how to avoid common mistakes during prosecution. Mr. Mitra, Mr. Basu and Mr. Majumdar staged a mock trial to underline the importance of preparing for the trial. In the evening, WCCB officers conducted sessions on search and seizure procedures. Mr. Mitra then conducted a session on overview of search and seizure procedures, which was followed by a session by Mr. Basu on how search and seizure should be conducted.
Anirban Chaudhuri, Project Coordinator, CWT, WCS-India taking a session on species identification
Day three started with an interactive session on identification of common wildlife and their parts in trade, jointly addressed by Mr. Basu and Mr. Chaudhuri. Mr. Mitra conducted a session on investigation and filing of complaint. The final session was a practical demonstration on crime scene investigation. Participants were asked to investigate crime scenes, conduct search and seizure, gather evidence, prepare seizure list, interrogate suspects and arrest accused persons. At the end of the crime scene investigation session Mr. Mitra and Basu explained the mistakes made by the participants and clarified their doubts. They also shared tips with participants on dos and don'ts during a crime scene investigation.
Crime scene simulation during a search operation
The participants were enthusiastic and interacted through all the sessions, reflecting their eagerness to protect wildlife. WCS-India is grateful to the Directorate of Forests, West Bengal for their encouragement and assistance provided to organize the workshop.
Siliguri town in north Bengal provides easy access to Bangladesh, Nepal and Bhutan, and is a major hub for wildlife trafficking. The purpose of the workshop was to improve the capacity of local frontline Forest Department staff to overcome challenges in wildlife crime investigations and secure stronger convictions in their court cases. WCS-India hope such trainings will prepare frontline forest personnel to dismantle organized wildlife trafficking in the region and lead to more arrests and higher conviction rates.