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Hunters to Custodians: Tribal Youth Trained as Wild Buffalo Trackers in Udanti WLS
Udanti Wildlife Sanctuary, Chhattisgarh, June 8, 2016: In an effort to utilise and properly channel the forest craft of local youth belonging to traditional hunting communities based near Udanti and Sitanadi Wildlife Sanctuaries, Wildlife Trust of India (WTI), as part of its Central Indian Wild Buffalo Conservation Project, organised a one-day programme on May 29 to train 15 selected tribesmen as wild buffalo trackers.
 
Dr RP Mishra, WTI’s Central India Regional Head, addresses the trainees during the morning session

Skilled trackers are a pressing requirement for the conservation project, since the five male wild buffaloes ranging in the wilds of Sitanadi and Udanti – among a gravely endangered local population of just about 50 individuals (as estimated by a WTI survey conducted in 2010) – must be constantly monitored and protected from unnatural harm or mortality.

The 15 selected trackers, hailing from the Gond, Yadav, Kamar and Bhunjia communities, were well versed in field craft but lacked the formal knowledge to observe and record things systematically. The one-day training, which was held at the Koiba Eco-centre at Udanti WLS, aimed to address this issue by introducing them to the community-based monitoring system.
 
The trackers practice with equipment they will use in the field during the afternoon training session

The training programme was inaugurated by DS Patre, Assistant Director, Udanti-Sitanadi Tiger Reserve. Five Forest Guards, three Deputy Range Officers and a Range Officer also participated. In the morning session the trackers were given theoretical information, bolstered by PowerPoint presentations, on the status of the wild buffalo in the region, the reasons for the training, ways of monitoring wild buffaloes, identification of other wild animals, and data collection and recording. They were taken into the field in the afternoon for a practical session that also included the use of GPS devices, cameras and binoculars. A monitoring schedule was also discussed and agreed upon to mark the initiation of the project’s community-based monitoring programme.

The trackers will be used in rotation depending on their availability, since they may do other jobs as well. They will report with a log of their daily activities to WTI’s field officer, who will then feed the information into the formal park management channels by sharing it with the local park warden.

WTI’s Central India Wild Buffalo Conservation Project aims to stabilise the critically endangered wild buffalo population in Udanti and Sitanadi Wildlife Sanctuaries by implementing a number of ex situ and in situ interventions. The project is being implemented in partnership with the Chattisgarh Forest Department and with support from Oracle India.
 
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