A Virtual Discussion on ‘Human-Wildlife Conflict Mitigation’ with State Forest Officer Trainees at CASFOS Dehradun

25 Apr, 2020

A virtual discussion was conducted on HWC Mitigation for 36 State Forest Service Officer trainees from 22-24 April 2020 at the Central Academy for State Forest Service (CASFOS) Dehradun. The discussion was jointly hosted by CASFOS and GIZ and was part of the ‘2018-20 SFS Induction Course’ under the Indo-German Project on Human-Wildlife Conflict (HWC) Mitigation in India. GIZ and Directorate of Forest Education (DFE) have entered into an MoU under the Indo-German Project to work towards facilitating capacity development measures at institutions under DFE such as CASFOS.

The first day of discussion began with an introductory session by Dr. Pradeep Wahule, Faculty CASFOS, Ms. Sarita Kumari, Faculty, CASFOS, Dr. Pradeep Mehta, GIZ, Dr. Subhadeep Bhattacharjee, GIZ and Mr. Vimarsh Sharma, GIZ. The discussion was divided into 6 sessions on different themes of HWC mitigation. In the first session, Dr. Subhadeep Bhattacharjee gave an overview of HWC, and mitigating HWC which followed by discussion.

The second session focused on the basics of landscape ecology and a landscape approach to mitigating HWC, holistic approach for HWC mitigation-Driver, Prevention and Damage reduction, community engagement, assessment of threats due to HWC to the protected areas, and geopolitical significance of biodiversity, where expert inputs were provided by Dr. K Ramesh, Scientist E, Wildlife Institute of India. The participants engaged in an intensive discussion followed on the holistic approach for HWC mitigation, with key issues being drivers of human-elephant conflict and landscape approach of HWC mitigation. An online interactive quiz was conducted by the trainers at the end of this session.

The second day started with a session on Megafauna of India and their occurrence and distribution. Dr. Aditi Sharma, Senior Veterinary Officer, Rajaji Tiger Reserve provided inputs on Leopard and Elephant, Prof. BC Chowdhury on Crocodiles, Dr. Rishi Kumar, WII-GIZ on Rhesus Macaque, Dr. Navaneethan Balasubramanium, GIZ on Gaur and Sloth Bear and Mr. Vimarsh Sharma on Human-Elephant conflict and identification of Elephants based on morphological features.

The next session focused on the drivers of HWC, HWC mitigation in the overall development and conservation context, prevention methods, including early warning and rapid response system (EWRR), as well as cross-sector cooperation, engaging with stakeholders and need for gender-inclusive mitigation measures for reducing the impact of HWC on human and wildlife. The highlight of the session included inputs from field practitioners from the different states of India on the real-life issues, challenges and mitigation measures. The session began with a presentation by Dr. Subhadeep Bhattacharjee, GIZ on HWC mitigation in the overall development and conservation context, cross-sector cooperation and early warning and rapid response system (EWRR). This was followed by Mr. Shivaram Babu, DCF Hassan, who provided the case study of an effective EWRR system for elephants in Hassan Forest Division, Karnataka. Dr. Koko Rose shared his experiences and good practices on establishment and management of Rapid Response Teams in Tehri Forest Division, Uttarakhand, with excellent support from the local community. Ms. Alka Tomar from Centre for Environment Communication (CEC) shared approaches and methods for engaging with stakeholders and the need for gender-inclusive mitigation measures for effective HWC Mitigation. An online quiz was conducted by the trainers at the end of the session.

On the third day, the first session focused on experiences from the field on human-carnivore conflict mitigation, where Dr. Aditi Sharma shared case studies on Leopard and Elephant conflict mitigation in Haridwar- Rajaji landscape; Mr. Subhankar Sengupta, CCF & Director Buxa Tiger Reserve West Bengal shared experiences on Human-Elephant conflict mitigation and Human-Leopard conflict mitigation case studies from North Bengal landscape.

The final session focused on the role of scientific research in managing HWC in the field where Dr. K Ramesh provided the initial expert inputs and engaged the participants in an interactive session on the way forward vis-à-vis human-wildlife conflict mitigation in India and contribution of State Forest officers. The virtual discussion concluded with faculty members from CASFOS and trainers and experts from GIZ receiving feedback from the participants for continuous improvement of such future courses, and expressing their gratitude to all the experts who participated in the discussions, and the trainee officers for their active participation.