GUWAHATI, March 25 � Conservationists and wildlife experts have called for evolving a quick-response mechanism to deal with the spurt in wildlife straying into human habitations and the resultant man-animal conflict across the State, including the State capital.
Recent incidents of leopards straying into city localities have shown the Forest Department and the administration to be ill-prepared to deal with such emergency situations.
Acknowledging the need to have a rapid response mechanism, PCCF (Wildlife) Suresh Chand said that while anti-depredation units were already there in each wildlife division, their functioning was marred by manpower and logistics constraints.
�We do have a response system but it needs to be upgraded and better-equipped to deal with the growing incidence of straying wildlife,� he said.
Chand said that the Forest Department was working on a response strategy involving local volunteers and police in forest fringe areas. �The volunteers have been asked to inform the nearest forest office about the presence of wildlife at the earliest. We have also written to the divisional forest officers (DFOs) to involve the administration and the police in any wildlife rescue operation for better crowd control,� he said.
Anupam Sarma of WWF-India, while stressing the need for immediate response on the part of the forest authorities, said that there ought to be well-defined roles for different agencies engaged in rescue work in emergency situations.
�This is totally lacking in the State and this explains the rising incidence of straying wildlife fatality including three tiger deaths in three years,� he said.
Advocating better policing and sensitization of people, Sarma said that the effective crowd control held the key to rescuing wildlife straying into human settlements.
�Some days back, we saw a leopard being killed, cut to pieces, and its meat carried away by people right in front of cameras of TV channels. This is a very disturbing situation, and legal steps should follow through proper inquiry to book the violators of the wildlife laws,� he said. Jayanta Sarma, consultant (environment and development), emphasized on adopting a multipronged and integrated strategy.
�The thrust should be on developing public understanding on protection and conservation through awareness and imparting knowledge on conservation issues along with their active participation in conservation and protection activities,� he said.
Pointing out that the absence of an appropriate approach for public participation in conservation along with a quick response and advisory system was resulting in a negative perception on protection and conservation among the masses, Sarma said that such perceptional differences reduced people�s tolerances and different violent behaviours were occurring against wildlife in particular and biodiversity in general.
�If it is continued in this way, it may convert the region into a wildlife graveyard,� he added.
Sarma said that in a man-animal conflict people usually do not know who to approach, where to approach or how to approach � something that often triggers violent reactions.
�So, a self-protection system usually gets converted into atrocity on wildlife. Therefore, developing a mechanism of quick response and support system to the public is a must. Creating a 24-hour toll-free number for advice and response followed by intimation to the respective authorities for follow-up action may effectively support people and help stop atrocity on animals,� he said.
Sarma suggested imparting knowledge and information to the police personnel, particularly the frontline staff, for effective handling of unruly crowds.
According to Sarma, initiatives at official level have so far remained sporadic and ritualistic in nature and hence the need for a sustained process of sensitization, awareness and education followed by developing a public communication system.
�Focus must be on use of local languages (spoken language) in communication, along with development of communication material including guideline for managing wildlife related problems in the human habitat,� he said.