WCS-India and Assam Forest Department hold workshop to fight against wildlife trafficking

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Posted in: From WCS-India

January 27-28, 2020: The Wildlife Conservation Society (WCS)-India, in association with Assam Forest Department, conducted a two-day capacity building workshop to combat wildlife trafficking on the 27th and 28th of January, 2020. The workshop, held at Hotel Nakshatra, Guwahati, was attended by 25 forest officers.

The workshop began with a technical session by Gargi Sharma, deputy program manager, Counter Wildlife Trafficking (CWT), on wildlife trafficking and on the massive scale of the crime. This was followed by a session on the overview of Wild Life Protection Act (WLPA), 1972 by Dev Prakash Bankhwal, retd. PCCF-Assam and Project Leader (NER), CWT, who gave a historical view of the Act and its relevance today. Praveen Bhargav, Trustee – Wildlife First, kick-started the legal training with an in-depth session on WLPA. He cleared the misused legal terminology point-by-point, and covered the prohibitions under WLPA. 

Praveen Bhargav delivering a session on Wild Life Protection Act, 1972 

The participants were informed about the important powers granted to forest officers under WLPA and how to effectively utilize them to prosecute offenders of the law. A session on Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora (CITES) and the role of the Forest Department in curbing illegal trade in exotic species was also conducted by K. K. Sarma, Assistant Director, Wildlife Crime Control Bureau (WCCB).  

The workshop also took the attendees through the list of commonly trafficked species and their identification. There was active participation during the session where trainees shared their field experiences. A legal session covering detection of wildlife crime and legal procedures to be followed during an investigation was also organized.

Trainees filling out documents after the crime simulation exercise

The participants were split into teams of two to investigate two different crime scenes. Feedback was provided to them post the exercise and their strengths and weaknesses were identified. The concluding technical session was delivered by Dev Prakash Bankhwal who touched upon the checklist of documents that accompany a POR and a complaint. 

“This training will go a long way in equipping these officials in dealing with wildlife trafficking, as Guwahati airport, road and rail transport need to be put under effective surveillance. In addition, these divisions share boundaries with neighboring Meghalaya and are on the exit route of all illegal trade through road networks emanating from other states of the North-East,” adds Dev Prakash Bankhwal. 

Aakash Deep Baruah, Chief Conservator of Forests, Lower Assam Zone, said: “The workshops were very well structured. We were also able to identify common mistakes that occur. I would like more officers to attend future workshops. Overall, I am very happy I attended it; we do need more of such workshops periodically.”

The workshop emphasized the importance of developing essential skills to effectively crack the whip on wildlife trafficking. 

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