07 Jun, 2021
A five-day virtual training on a Holistic approach to Human-Wildife Conflict (HWC) mitigation in India was organised for 37 induction trainees from six states of India of the Central Academy for State Forest Services (CASFOS), Burnihat Assam. The training aimed at sharing the current issues in human-wildlife conflict (HWC) on various species and discussing the possible mitigation framework according to the holistic and co-existence framework. Interactive sessions were planned for a better understanding of the concepts, distribution of species, HWC issues and mitigation methods adapted to various landscapes of the country.
Day One: Dr C. Ramesh, (Principal, CASFOS, Burnihat) welcomed the participants, representatives of GIZ, the Joint Director MoEFCC (Wildlife) and Director of Directorate of Forest Education Dr RP Singh for joining the inaugural program. He thanked GIZ for organising the programme and briefed the participants about the cooperation between GIZ, DFE and CASFOS. Dr Neeraj Khera (Team Leader, HWC Mitigation project, GIZ), briefed about the project, its inception, planning process and presented the overall context and need for achieving a holistic approach to human-wildlife conflict mitigation in India, using a Nationally Standardised curriculum. She elaborated the capacity development strategy and competencies required to achieve harmonious coexistence for effective and efficient HWC mitigation. Dr Sunil Sharma, (Joint Director, Wildlife, MoEFCC) congratulated GIZ, DFE and CAFOS team for arranging the module.
Welcoming the participants, he emphasised the importance of the holistic module and deliberated on the importance of training regarding communication, media and for crowd handling situations. Dr R.P. Singh, Director, Directorate of Forest Education in his inaugural address emphasized the holistic and co-existence approach. He talked about “Ahimsa permodharma” (non-violence is ultimate duty) as the basis of our culture. He gave various examples from Upanishads and emphasised that many Indian traditions see God in all animals.
After the introductions, an online benchmarking was conducted to know the status of knowledge of the participants on different topics before training. “Thematic Champions” concept was introduced and participants were requested to select a topic on which they would present on the final day of the training course. The first technical session started with a panel discussion on “HWC, basic facts and data, drivers of HWC, the concept of carrying capacity, population management, an overview of mitigation measures”. The first panelist of the day, Dr NVK Ashraf (Vice President and Chief Veterinarian, Wildlife Trust of India), presented on “Human Wildlife Conflict: Drivers and Mitigation”. He focused on the main drivers of HWC and explained the main mitigation approaches for addressing HWC and presented case studies related to each mitigation approach.
The second panelist of the session Dr Senthil Kumar, Additional Professor, IGNFA gave an overview of “HWC – issues, perspective and way forward”. He deliberated on various case studies of crocodile conflict from Andaman and Nicobar Islands and how panic drives people’s reaction. He deliberated on various population management methods, changing crop patterns and its feasibility with access to market for new crops, sanitation and its role in HWC. The second session of the day was expert input and discussions on “Megafauna of India – Occurance and Distribution”. Dr Aditi Sharma, senior Veterinarian, Directorate of Animal Husbandry presented on the distribution of leopard and elephants. Dr H. S. Bargali, Deputy Director, Corbett Foundation, deliberated on Occurrence and Distribution of Bears. He introduced the four bear species of India, their distribution and conservation challenges they face. He pointed out some recommendations for the protection and conservation of each species. He briefed the participants on some ways to avoid conflict with the bears.
Dr Navaneethan Balasubramani (Technical Expert, GIZ) introduced the Gaur and its distribution to the participants. He deliberated on the ecological importance of Gaur, its distribution, sub-species differences, ecological characteristics, complex conservation scenario and threats faced by the species. Dr Rishi Kumar (Project Scientist, WII) presented on “Occurrence and Distribution of Nilgai” and “Occurrence and Distribution of Blackbuck”. He gave an overview of phylogenetic linkages of the species, their morphological characteristics and their overall distribution in the Indian subcontinent.
Day Two : The second day started with an overview of the ecology and distribution of the three crocodilian species of India by Professor B. C. Choudhary. He pointed out the threats faces by each of these species, their conservation management history and historical records of Human - Crocodile Conflict (HCC) in India. The second presentation of the day discussed “Occurrence and Distribution of Wild Pig”. Dr Rishi Kumar presented the characteristics of the species, its historical radiation from South East Asia and various sub-species. He emphasided the increasing distribution range of the species with human introductions in new areas of the world.
The second session of the day focused on HWC related legal issues, conventions, action plan and case studies. The first expert of the session, Mr P.C. Tyagi shared his own experiences from the field as a manager while dealing with various HWC issues. He presented on “HWC Legislation for Mitigating Conflict” and talked about various policies for mitigating HWC and provisions under the Wildlife (Protection) Act, 1972. He deliberated on the management strategies and action plan for human-elephant conflict and limitations of the translocation method. The second expert input of the session by Mr DVS Khati (Former PCCF, Uttarakhand Forest Department) focused on sharing his field experiences in Uttarakhand with the participants. He highlighted the main drivers of HWC and how the blockage of corridors is affecting the space concept for the mega-herbivore.
The third session of the day was initiated by a talk on snakes by Mr Jose Louies (Founder of indiansnakes.org), where he talked about the correct identification procedure for snakes in India, discarding many myths regarding various snakes. He presented on the big four venomous species and the variations in their pattern. He also discussed the pattern and colours in many non-venomous species and differentiating patterns form venomous species. The second presentation of the session was on “Occurrence and Distribution of Rhesus macaque”. Dr Rishi Kumar highlighted the historical spread of genus Macaca, and the wider distribution of more generalist species that have adapted to humans. In the Indian context, he deliberated on the major HWC concerns and the solutions, specifically looking at the issues concerning translocations, and sterilisation as the effective solutions.
This was followed by a session on participatory exercise, where participants were grouped into five groups. These breakaway groups discussed on “ What needs to done to mitigate HWC?”. The second part of the session was a virtual Fishbowl discussion, where participants reflected on their role in the HWC mitigation.
Day Three: The first session of the day took participants on a virtual field visit to selected HWC conflict hotspots. Dr Arithra Kshettry (INSPIRE- Fellow, Ministry of Science and Technology and GIZ Consultant) presented a view from the tea gardens of North Bengal on the spotted cats (Leopard). He highlighted how leopard habitat is now interspersed between human habitat due to tea plantations, forests and human habitation matrix and its consequences. He pointed out how the radio collar has helped understand the ranging pattern of leopard and also help alert people of the problematic animals.
In the second virtual tour to Nirgiris and Eastern Ghat Landscape, Dr Navaneethan, presented a view from the matrix of forest and coffee plantations in Karnataka. He highlighted the human-elephant conflict in this region. The radio-collars on many Matriarchs and Males have helped track the elephant movement in this region. He pointed out that there are many reasons for changing movement patterns and seasonality, clans, water availability can affect these patterns. He demonstrated how all the collared elephant can be tracked live on a Google earth like platform, thus maintains the record of movement patterns.
The second session of the day centered around – reducing the impact of HWC with stakeholder engagement and gender inclusive mitigation measure. For a discussion on stakeholder, Dr Pradeep Mehta explained how to identify stakeholders to the participants. He demonstrated that these stakeholders can be further grouped via a matrix of interest and influence. Further five breakaway groups were formed and each group deliberated on the stakeholders for interest and influence matrix related to HWC.
In the second part of the session Dr Ruchi Badola (Scientist – G, WII), presented an economic and social perspective of HWC with emphasis on gender inclusive approach to HWC mitigation. She highlighted how different cultures view gender, and how the roles of males and females are socially constructed. And the impact of these roles on livelihood leading to women bearing the hidden costs of HWC. She explained how HWC leads to an additional burden on women and changes in their roles. Mr Shivram Babu (DCF, Wildlife, Madhikeri) presented Concept and Experiences on HWC in Hasan. He gave insights of his initiatives for elephant translocation using our own staff from the division. With GIZ collars, the GPS location of elephants could be tracked with accuracy.
In the last session of the day, Dr Aditi Sharma brainstormed on “Potential mitigation measures, capture and handling, post-capture, management, documentation, reporting and monitoring of HWC”. She pointed out the potential mitigation measures and modalities of addressing a conflict situation and post capture management, documentation, reporting and monitoring of HWC.
Day Four: The first session of the day started with a panel discussion on “Role of media: How to effectively engage with Media”. Mr Ramesh Menon (Senior Journalist), highlighted the importance of media in HWC cases and urged that all forest staff should interact with the media to further the cause of conservation and for mitigating HWC as its going to increase in India in coming years. Mr Manoj Kumar (Former Director, Mysore Zoo) shared his experiences with the media via examples from personal life. Ms. Alka Tomar (Center for Environment Communication), spoke on the good and bad experience of the participants with media. She shared feedback on handling media and HWC issue and informed the participants on the guidelines being developed for Forest Department on how they should work with media and vice versa. The second media session focused on “Forest Media Cooperation: Media Case studies”. Mr Virat Singh (Communication Strategist, Asar) presented on “Media’ soft SPOT for Mumbai’s leopard”. Ms Alka Tomar presented the case of Delhi Police and their Image projection over the years. Mr Ramesh Menon deliberated on “How to effectively engage media” and shared some case studies from the field.
The third session of the day discussed “Case Study: Concepts and experiences on Human Leopard conflict”. Dr Athira Kshettry talk on “Leopard in a tea cup: Human leopard interactions” dealt with distribution, species information, and Human – Leopard Conflict in North Bengal forests. Dr Koko Rose presented a perspective from a very different landscape of Uttarakhand with his expert input on “Experience of managing man- leopard conflict in Tehri Forest Divison”. The last session of the day was an interactive discussion with the Central Zoo Authority on “Occupational health and safety in Zoos” by Dr Sonali Ghosh (DIG, CZA) and Dr Gowri Mallapur (Veterinary Consultant, CZA).
Day Five: The first session of the day started with an interactive session by Dr C. Ramesh on SDGs. He explained the concept of Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) and their importance to the participants. It was followed by a group exercise where the participants were grouped into five breakaway groups and asked to brainstorm on the SDGs that impact the HWC mitigation which they presented in the plenary. The last session of expert input and discussion was on “Science Management linkages”. Mr S. K. Khanduri (Former IG, WL, MoEFCC) talked about the differences in wildlife and territorial divisions, and cooperation between the divisions is needed for management activities and management efficiency may also be affected by HWC. He pointed out that there are global, national and local issues, however, local issues are more important in an area. The second panelist of the session Dr Dhananjai Mohan (Director, Wildlife Institute of India) elaborated on the various technologies available for HWC mitigation, from animal tracking technologies for capture and handling, identification technologies, barrier designing, hot spots and corridor identification techniques. The last session were the Thematic Champion presentations. Participants collected information during the course on their topics and presented their thematic areas based on the learning from the 5-day training program.
In the closing session, Dr Mehta presented a recap of the entire course through visual journey. Participants also shared their views on the course, its content and the session that they enjoyed. A post-training, benchmarking was also conducted online that indicated a significant change in participant’s understanding of the HWC, knowledge of mitigation measures, etc. Dr C. Ramesh in his closing address appreciated the course and the interactive five days of training. He appreciated GIZ team for bringing together resource persons and organising the course. He encouraged the participants to apply the gained knowledge in the field. He concluded the training program by thanking the experts for the training the participants with many new ideas. The training was facilitated by Dr Pradeep Mehta, Technical Advisor, GIZ and co-facilitated by Dr Rishi Kumar, Project Scientist, WII.
The Human-Wildlife Conflict Mitigation (HWC) project is implemented by the Deutsche Gesellschaft für Internationale Zusammenarbeit (GIZ) GmbH on behalf of the German Federal Ministry for Economic Cooperation and Development (BMZ) in partnership with the Ministry of Environment, Forest and Climate Change, and State Forest Departments of Karnataka, Uttarakhand and West Bengal. The project aims at providing technical support at the national level, and effective implementation of HWC mitigation measures in selected states of India. The project pilot sites are: Haridwar Forest Division and adjoining landscape including Rajaji Tiger Reserve in Uttarakhand, Gorumara Wildlife Division in West Bengal, and Kodagu Forest Circle in Karnataka.
The main objective of the project is that the rural population in project areas, where agreed guidelines and tools are applied to mitigate human-wildlife conflict, is better protected against it. The project takes the approach of harmonious coexistence, by ensuring that both—human and wildlife—are protected from conflict. Read more
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