IFAW-WTI conducts first-ever pre-flood awareness training

A hog deer swims through a flooded Kaziranga National Park in this file photo.In anticipation of flood-related rescues this monsoon season, the International Fund for Animal Welfare and the Wildlife Trust of India (IFAW-WTI) organised a pre-flood awareness training for forest personnel at the Centre for Wildlife Rehabilitation and Conservation (CWRC), the wildlife rescue, care and rehabilitation facility jointly run by IFAW, WTI and the Assam Forest Department near Kaziranga National Park. The training comes at the beginning of India’s monsoon season, which runs from June to September.

The training was attended by six foresters and 10 forest guards from the Eastern, Central, Western and Burhapahar forest ranges last month. Dr Panjit Basumatary, the head veterinarian at CWRC, and Dr Samshul Ali, a veterinarian with the centre’s Mobile Veterinary Service, discussed basic wildlife rescue protocols with the attendees and shared case studies of previous flood rescues. Assistant manager for IFAW-WTI and CWRC Subhamoy Bhattacharjee spoke to participants on the importance of engaging with local stakeholders and community members during wildlife rescue operations. The attendees were then taken around the CWRC campus to learn about ongoing flood preparedness activities and meet the centre’s animal keepers in order to foster cooperation in a rescue situation.

The monsoons inundate large portions of the national park, and although these deluges are beneficial to the area’s vast wetland ecosystem, the rains leave widespread displacement of wildlife in their wake.

Last year nearly 80 percent of Kaziranga National Park was underwater, making it the worst period of flooding in 10 years. While at least 10 rhinos and 130 deer amongst other animals died in the floods as they tried to move to higher ground, forest teams managed to rescue at least nine rhinos, 90 hog deer and many other animals.

This animal displacement leads to an increase in human-wildlife conflict and demands the formation of a systematic wildlife safety plan. Members of the Assam Forest Department hope that this training will help their staff on the frontlines when responding to wildlife emergencies during floods and mitigate any human-wildlife interactions.

--RGH

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