Kaziranga National Park (Assam), January 18: “Prevention is the best policy in respect of protection of precious wildlife on this beautiful earth where intelligent human beings are the leader responsible for preservation of living species,” said Justice N Kotiswar Singh of Gauhati High Court.
“Most cases related to wildlife crimes must be convincingly supported by seizure (like cases under NDPS Act) in the court of law to ensure adequate punishment to the guilty persons. Hence there is the need for having specialized teams of wildlife crimes investigators in the police force as well as among the forest officials,” Justice Singh said.
Addressing a consultation on wildlife conservation organized jointly by premier biodiversity conservation and research organization, Aaranyak (www.aaranyak.org) and Assam State Legal Services Authority (ASLSA) in the eastern Range of Kaziranga National Park (KNP) on January 17, Justice Singh said it was indeed very difficult to deal with wildlife crime given that both police and forest personnel were not given any specific training for it.
Justice Singh who is also the Executive Chairman of the ASLSA, further said the society as a whole must remain awake to the need and challenge of protection of wildlife given that human beings with intelligent capabilities have the responsibility as a leader of the earth to protect all other species thriving on the planet.
Justice Tasi Rabstant from Jammu and Kashmir High Court addressing consultation said, “We have to realise how important is the presence of wildlife for ecological balance. All lives on the earth are interrelated and interdependent. Main enemy of wildlife is no one else but the human being. It is needs tremendous coordination among society and wildlife protection agencies for effective conservation of wildlife on this earth,”
Taking part in the consultation, the Divisional Forest Officer (DFO) of Kaziranga National Park (KNP), Ramesh Gogoi underscored that it is indeed very challenging to protect wildlife and attitude and cooperation from fringe area villagers is of prime importance in this regard.
The forest official further said each of the national parks and tiger reserves in Assam has a unique set of challenges dealing with conservation of wildlife and its protection. “In general, forest personnel entrusted with multi-tasking and dealing with legal provisions vis-à-vis wildlife crime cases remains a big challenge for most of the forest officials.
The DFO raised the alarm over growing intolerance among people and ‘mob –mentality’ towards straying wildlife in the state and said it makes the tasks much more difficult for forest personnel. He called for restraint on part of the media so that forest personnel could carry out their responsibility smoothly in an emergency situation.
The Sub-Divisional Police Officer (SDPO), Bokakhat Sub-Division, Prithviraj Rajkhowa flagged the need for setting up of a Wildlife Crime Police Station in Kaziranga National Park with jurisdiction all over Assam for more efficient handling of wildlife crimes. He called for a Pan-India support system to deal with such crimes and trade in wildlife parts.
District and Sessions Judge of Cachar District, Darak Ullah who had presided over the fast track court in Sonitpur for wildlife crimes, recounted his experience in dealing with wildlife crimes and suggested that the Forest Department should appoint a Liaison Officer in the court of law for wildlife crime cases.
He said, “It is of prime importance for the Forest Department to facilitate proper maintenance of the register of seized items which is most valuable evidence in wildlife crimes cases.”
The Chief Executive Officer (CEO) of Aaranyak, Dr Bibhab Kumar Talukdar who is a globally acclaimed rhino conservation expert, made a Power Point Presentation in the consultation to highlight global scenarios on wildlife crimes and its impact on Assam and the rest of Northeast India, a biodiversity hotspot.
Nayan Sankar Baruah, Member Secretary of ASLSA during his interaction provided an opportunity for representatives of Village Defence Organizations (VDOs) present in the consultation to air the challenges they face while helping police and forest department in dealing with wildlife crimes.
Besides representatives of at least 15 VDO organisations from Bokakhat Subdivision who work for wildlife protection around the KNP, the consultation was graced by Chief Judicial Magistrate of Golaghat district, Kiranlal Baishnav, District and Sessions Judges of Golaghat district, Vinod Kumar Chandak, Additional District and Sessions Judge of Kamrup (Metro) district Mallika Dutta and Deputy Secretary of ASLSA, Tripti Ari.
Secretary of District Legal Services Authority (DLSA) Golaghat, Narayan Kurie coordinated the consultation throughout.
Aaranyak distributed working lights (torch lights) among the representatives of VDO organisations attending the consultation. These lights were sponsored by David Shepherd Wildlife Foundation (DSWF) and Nabu International.