A trainer examines the offence report filed by one of the field teams during the training exercise
Manas National Park, March 8, 2017: A seven-day special workshop on wildlife offense report writing was organised by the International Fund for Animal Welfare (IFAW) and Wildlife Trust of India (WTI) with support from the Bodoland Territorial Council (BTC) and Assam Forest Department, at Kajalgaon in the Chirang district of BTC from February 18 to 24. Twenty selected field personnel from across five forest divisions of Assam participated in the workshop, which consisted of three days of theoretical training and four days of practical sessions.
The primary objective of the training was to improve the trainees’ knowledge regarding various provisions of the Wild Life (Protection) Act, 1972 and Assam (Wildlife) Forest Protection Rules, 1997, and to teach them how to document wildlife offences correctly in order to improve the chances of securing convictions in wildlife related cases.
In one of the mock exercises, individual trainees were asked to prepare a seizure list suitable for presentation in a trial court; the trainers then discussed errors and possible improvements with each trainee. In another field exercise the trainees were divided into four groups and given a field scenario to investigate. They were required to collect evidence, take witness statements and prepare a full offense report for a trial court within 48 hours. Three lawyers from the Barpeta Sessions Court, Mr Faizur Rahman, Ms Anjali Devi and Mr Kalyan Rai, examined the teams’ reports for potential loopholes. The offense reports prepared by two of the teams were declared ‘excellent’ by the supervising lawyers and a cash prize was awarded to the team with the best documentation at the end of the exercise.
Mr Bhupen Talukdar, retired Deputy Conservator of Forests, Assam Forest Department coordinated the training while Mr RC Bhattacharjee, retired Conservator of Forests interacted with the trainees on various aspects of wildlife conservation. “The preparation of legal documents for submission in courts of law is probably the single largest shortcoming when it comes to securing convictions in wildlife related offences – not only in Assam but all over India”, said Dr Bhaskar Choudhury, IFAW-WTI’s Regional Head (North-east) and Head Veterinarian. “There are many aspects to the work that frontline forest personnel do and this one has been neglected. The emphasis in this training event on the correct preparation of offence reports and other legal documents is an attempt to address this issue.”
Evidence being collected as part of a mock investigation during another field exercise
IFAW-WTI has regularly been conducting training events for the field staff of Manas National Park since 2011-12, and in other Protected Areas since 2001 under its Van Rakshak (Guardians of the Wild) Project. Over 16,000 frontline forest personnel have been trained in nearly 150 Protected Areas across 14 states in India. The Van Rakshak Project follows a multi-pronged strategy with four thrust areas abbreviated as TEAM: Training, Equipping, Awareness and Morale-boosting, to build capacity and strengthen the spirits of frontline forest personnel working in tough field conditions.