February 25, Coimbatore: The Tamil Nadu Forest Academy (TNFA), the Tamil Nadu Forest Department and WCS-India organized a two-day workshop from February 25-26 aimed at building capacity of Forest Range Officers to detect wildlife contraband and improve investigation to ultimately facilitate higher conviction rates. As many as 28 Forest Range Officers from across the state attended the training arranged on the TNFA premises in Coimbatore.
Forest Range Officers in TN attend a training on illegal wildlife trafficking
The first day started with an introduction to wildlife trafficking by Sahila Kudalkar, head of Counter Wildlife Trafficking (CWT) team, WCS-India. The session explored the scale and extent of trafficking in India and abroad, the impact of wildlife trafficking and what forest officers can do to control it.
This was followed by a session on the Wildlife Protection Act by M.I. Varghese, Legal Trainer at WCS-India. During the session, he explained the powers forest officials possess, the procedures they must follow while registering a wildlife offence, the prohibitions under the Act and the penalties for violating these.
“It was a wonderful experience because they have imbibed what we talked about and the Range Officers who attended the session were exposed to very good training. We never had difficulty getting through to them,” Mr. Verghese later said about the workshop.
Forest Range Officers in TN at a workshop organized by the Tamil Nadu Forest Academy and Tamil Nadu Forest Department in association with WCS-India
The next session was conducted by Mridula Vijairaghavan, Legal Advisor at WCS-India. She briefed participants on search and seizure protocol, the different types of evidence, collection of evidence, preparation of documents following a seizure and took them through a step-by-step process of what an officer needs to do during a seizure.
The final session of the day was taken by Dr. Chandrasekaran, Course Coordinator, TNFA. He spoke about the different documents forest officers need to prepare and discussed the different cases they have dealt with, had them draft confession statements and answered other questions they had regarding booking cases.
The second day saw a session on identification of trafficked wildlife, and their parts and products by Sahila Kudalkar. Other topics discussed included field testing to identify fake and real products, and biological sample collection.
The workshop concluded with a simulation exercise where facilitators recreated crime scene scenarios and participants had to conduct investigation and write documents such as seizure list, arrest cum personal search memo, and preliminary offence report.
Participants found the training useful for their day-to-day activities. “It was a very useful workshop. We were using Section 9 for all wildlife cases, but after coming here, our doubts were resolved,” said P. Santhiya, Forest Range Officer, Uthangarai.
“The language used in the presentations was simple and easy to understand,” added A. Praveen Kumar, another Forest Range Officer.