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Wildlife Trust of India and its conservation successes

By auther pic. CSRBOX

February 23, 2021

Wildlife Trust of India and its conservation successes

Wildlife Trust of India

India’s developmental needs are paramount, but wildlife and biodiversity are equally imperative emphasized Prime Minister Shri Narendra Modi noting the Wildlife week celebrations in the beginning of October this year. In his message to the nation, he also reiterated that India’s commitment to wildlife protection and conservation is strong.

 

 

India is home to one of the richest reserves of biodiversity in the world and has been cognizant of its rich natural heritage and its conservation priorities. The Indian government and civil society organisations have been actively leading efforts on this front. One such organisation is the Wildlife Trust of India (WTI), which is a leading Indian nature conservation organization committed to the service of nature. WTI is currently running 39 projects across India. While rigorously working towards its mission to conserve wildlife and its habitat and towards the welfare of individual wild animals, in partnership with communities and governments, WTI has hit some notable milestones in its conservation journey. 

 

 

WTI’s Greater Manas Conservation Project brought back past glory of Manas landscape by restoring the ecological functionality of the landscape. The Manas Landscape lies at the confluence of three bio-geographic realms – lower Gangetic plain, Central Himalayas and Brahmaputra valley and is home to a great variety of wildlife, including many endangered species. It was declared a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 1985 under the criteria inscribed in (VII), (IX) and (X), which has “outstanding universal value”. The landscape has five conservation recognitions - a Tiger Reserve, a National Park, an Elephant reserve,  a biosphere reserve, and being a recognized as a World Heritage Site. Two decades of civil and political unrest since early 1988 due to agitation by the ethnic Bodo community for a separate “Bodoland” resulted in extensive damage to wildlife and wild habitats of the landscape. However, peace and normalcy prevailed after the formation of the “Bodoland Territorial Council” in 2003 with a tripartite agreement between the Bodoland People’s Front, Government of Assam, and Government of India for creation of a territorial council. WTI’s efforts along with its partner, the International Fund for Animal Welfare (IFAW), succeeded to add 350 sq km of land to the existing National Park and the extension was officially notified as the “ First Addition to  Manas National Park”. The critical ecosystem that was once listed under UNESCO World Heritage sites in danger, managed to bounce back to life once again. 

 

Located near Kaziranga National Park in Assam, WTI’s Centre for Wildlife Rehabilitation and Conservation (CWRC) is the only facility in India where orphaned and/or injured wild animals of several species are hand-raised and/or treated and subsequently returned to the wild. Strategically located in Borjuri village adjacent to the Panbari Reserve Forest, the centre attends to a wide range of wildlife emergencies resulting from natural or anthropogenic causes. It was established by WTI in partnership with IFAW and the Assam Forest Department in 2002. The centre follows accepted international protocols and guidelines during rescue, treatment, and rehabilitation of displaced or distressed animals. Since its launch, the centre has handled close to 5500 animal cases, with nearly 62 percent released back to the wild.

 

Its Whale Shark Conservation Project played a significant role in saving whale sharks that were once brutally hunted along the shores of the Indian state of Gujarat. To stop this slaughter, the species (Rhincodon typus) was added to Schedule I of India’s Wildlife (Protection) Act, 1972 in May 2001, thereby according it the highest level of protection in the country. WTI lobbied to make the Whale Shark the first fish species to be protected under the Act. It launched the widely acclaimed Whale Shark Campaign in 2004 to spread awareness on the plight of the species and its protected status among coastal communities in Gujarat. The campaign helped convert the fishermen into protectors of the fish and brought about a change in the perception and attitude of local people, aiding its long-term conservation in India.

 

 

WTI’s conservation efforts have also helped the hornbills, which are especially vulnerable in North-east India. The Nyishi tribe in Arunachal Pradesh used hornbill beaks to adorn their headgears - a symbol of pride for the entire community. As a result, hundreds of hornbills were being slaughtered every year. WTI stepped in and persuaded the tribe to use fibreglass hornbill beaks to adorn their headgears instead of killing the bird. Today, not only has the slaughter stopped, the tribal community is also earning a livelihood by making these fibreglass beaks. 

 

 

Indian wildlife is today confronted with immense problems, and recurring Human Wildlife Conflicts need immediate intervention failing which ultimately the wildlife loses and disappears from the landscape. Mega-herbivores such as elephants, with a large home range and food requirements requiring transboundary movement, have been among the species most affected by habitat alteration and loss of habitat connectivity. WTI is the first Indian organization to have mapped 101 corridors used by the Asian Elephants for their movement across the country. It has also brought out a seminal publication “The Right of Passage” on corridor securement elucidating the four workable securement models. 6 of these corridors have already been secured with the support of state government and our international partners.

 

 

The organisation has also made targeted efforts to tackle wildlife crime and poaching which have been a conservation scourge from decades. Towards this, it has trained and equipped about 18000 frontline wildlife staff in over 170 protected areas across the country to help them better tackle wildlife crime and poaching. Wildlife Trust of India also provides ex-gratia assurance to the immediate family of frontline staff in the event of their unfortunate death of life changing injury while on duty guarding our protected areas, we have reached out to over 20,000 such families.

 

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Impact-Story is a series on development and CSR interventions leading to some impacts on the ground. If you have a project, innovation or intervention that has changed the lives of a few people or a community, please share a brief note at shilpi@csrbox.org. Our Team will get back to you after validating the information for a detailed coverage.

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