In Bhutanese wildlife protection trainings, strengthening capacity and building enthusiasm
The following post was submitted by Jose Louies, who was one of the lead trainers for this session.
The rains just started yesterday ... it was quite hot here before,” said the mini-truck driver transporting me to Gelephu – the bordering town of Bhutan, across Bodoland in northeast India. The road presented the evidence…covered with water everywhere.
I was driving across the border from the capital town of Bodoland, Kokrajhar, in a truck loaded with resource materials and field kits for the frontline staff in Bhutan. We were on our way to fulfill our commitment to help build the capacity of the frontline staff protecting the natural heritage of this amazing (in-more-ways-than-one) country.
Our lead trainer, Dr. Prabal Sarkar, had left a day earlier. He was to meet the Bhutanese trainers – Sangay Dorji, Ngawang Gyeltshen, Tshering Nidup and Dorji Wangchuck -- and prepare for the training that will begin tomorrow.
I volunteered to travel with the goods to ensure they arrive safely and on time. We were already lagging behind by a day due to strikes in India and did not want any more delay. We were stopped at four check posts during the 3.5 hours journey to the border but only in one did we have to stop for a while. A lone guard manning this post wanted to share tea with us. (Sure, I paid for the tea, but I have no complaints).
At the Indo-Bhutan border, I was received by a Forest officer – Sangay. Compared to what we had gone through earlier, Bhutan was a blessing. Paperwork was quick. The authorities ensured that we paid no taxes for the field kits to be distributed to the training participants.
And there were smiles all around.
Finally, all cleared, I checked into a hotel room in Gelephu, warm in all senses. Sonam Wangdi, Senior Officer, Wildlife Conservation Division of the Royal Government of Bhutan, had also just arrived from Thimpu. He met me at the hotel, looking surprisingly fresh, and with a smile, despite the eight-hour drive.
We went over the plan we had so far made over phone and email. He informed me that the strike had resumed on the Indian side, which was not good news.
To reach the first training location in Royal Manas National Park, we would have to travel through India. That delayed us by another day, a day I would have loved to use to explore this town, but instead had to spend rescheduling our programme.
During this phase of training, we will also be covering Phipsoo Wildlife Sanctuary, reaching out to about 140 Bhutanese rangers in both protected areas.
A total of approximately 400 frontline staff in Bhutan will be trained and equipped by June 2013 by the International Fund for Animal Welfare-Wildlife Trust of India. The training focuses on a range of issues including orienting the participants to the rich natural heritage of Bhutan, wildlife crime prevention using professional patrolling techniques, crime investigation skills, and effective use of Bhutanese law to book offenders.
This was essentially to be a wildlife crime prevention training but, based on our pre-training needs assessment, we decided to also expose the staff to basic techniques of monitoring animals, using basic tools, conflict animal management, rescue and medical first aid.
At the end of the training, we will provide each participant with a field kits. These kits are a vital part of our capacity-building; custom-compiled to include items to meet unique local needs in addition to the general ones such as rain suit, rucksack, water bottle and torchlight for use in field duties.
Finally yesterday, we left Gelephu, escorted by the Indian Border Security Force personnel for safety.
Now we are here in Royal Manas National Park, seeing the continuation of the beautiful landscape that I first experienced in Bodoland.
As we continue capacity-building trainings in Manas National Park in India, we are strengthening the capacity of the staff across the border here in Bhutan. I see the similarities not just in the landscape but in the enthusiasm of the people protecting it.
And this leaves me satisfied.
This will be a worthwhile effort.