Van Rakshak project popularly known as the ‘guardians of the wild project’ was initiated in 2001 to minimize wildlife crime by strengthening and aiding wildlife protectors all over India and also looking after them.
Only about 4.77% of India’s total geographical area falls under the protected area network, strictly bound by law. Even after such protection, wildlife crime dangerously threatens such protected areas inhabiting endangered species. This lack security or efficiency is because of the dearth of trained and skilled manpower on ground with techniques and equipment failing to curb such illegal activities.
VRP aims at assisting the government to formulate a strong, skilled and well-equipped force of front line staff to effectively tackle poaching and habitat degradation.
The training programme
The project follows strategy focusing on four major aspects abbreviated as TEAM: training, equipping, awareness and morale boosting to train and motivate the personnel’s in tough field scenarios.
Targeted training programmes are organized depending on the different ranks for easier and effective guidance. The programmes include in depth understanding of the wildlife protection act (1972) and other laws required for handling a wildlife crime or case. Basics required for undertaking a good investigation and filing legal cases against wildlife offenders is also taught.
The training curriculum also includes making the frontline staff aware of the flora and fauna around, threats to wildlife and crime prevention. They are coached to be efficient in field craft, patrolling techniques and field investigations etc. They are made proficient in observing, data collection, record keeping, patrolling and reporting.
As part of boosting there moral and motivating them to work with their heart and soul VRP runs one of kind Insurance scheme for its forest staff all over India. This insurance protects them in case any well- equipped criminal harms them. The insurance is benefited by the staff an their families in case of permanent disability or death. The insurance cover up is up to Rs 100,000 (approx. 2000 US$).
VRP also maintains a database called the Protected Area Staff Status (PASS) tracking the progress and careers of the forest department staff including all ranks from the Range Forest officers to the temporary staff.
Since 2006, training programmes have commenced in places like Jammu and Kashmir where 32 forest officials participated in the first training organized.
From the time of its inception, VRP has trained over 7,500 forest staff covering more than 100 protected areas over 14 Indian states. More than 17,000 field staff are insured under the Group Accident insurance Scheme of VRP.
In 2013, The VRP programme was undertaken in Timphu (Bhutan) training around 450 forest rangers for effective wildlife prevention. Subsequently the team will travelled and conduct trainings for frontline staff in Jigme Singhye Wangchuck National park, Toorsa strict natural reserve, Wangchuck Cntennial park, Thrusingla National park, Bumdeling wildlife sanctuary,, Sakteng wilidlife sancturary, Samdrup Jangkar FD, Samtse FD and Jigme Dorji national park.