DIRANG- In the backdrop of harsh wildlife crime scenario where one of the country’s bigger neighbour is considered a major consumer on wildlife, research-based premier biodiversity conservation organisation, Aaranyak (www.aaranyak.org) with support from the US Fish and Wildlife Service (USFWS) conducted two sensitization workshops on wildlife crime for SSB personnel based in Dirang (30th Battalion) and Tawang (38th Battalion) in Arunachal Pradesh.
Around 130 personnel from the country’s elite Sashastra Seema Bal (SSB), the Armed Border Force, based in Dirang and Tawag in the frontier state of Arunachal Pradesh were enlightened on their important role in checking the steeping graph of wildlife crime that has transcended geographical frontiers across the globe.
The burgeoning illegal trade in wildlife is now the 4th largest across the world after the illegal trade in drug, arms smuggling and human trafficking. It has posed grave threat to the wildlife in the frontier region of Northeast India which is rich in biodiversity.
The Aaranyak’s team of resource persons led by Dr Bibhab Kumar Talukdar, the CEO and a globally acclaimed wildlife conservation scientist and wildlife crime monitor, interacted with 128 SSB personnel from 30th, 38th and 37th (Lumla) battalions in the two workshops held on Wednesday and Thursday.
The Aaranyak team enlightened the SSB personnel about the dire need to protect the country’s precious wildlife from the hawkish global wildlife crime/trade racket and the important role the SSB as a border guarding force can play in the effort. The SSB personnel were also enlightened how this wildlife trade racket is a grave threat to the national security because of its intricate link with global armed smugglers and insurgents of the region.
Both workshops were graced by the Commandants of the respective SSB battalions — Upendra Kumar (Dirang) and Ganga Singh Udawat (Tawang).
Setting the tone of the workshop at Dirang, Commandant Upendra Kumar said,” The Indian Constitution grants equal rights to human beings and animals- both deserve to live without torture. As Indians, we need to uphold ‘ahimsa’ and threat posed to all animals and plants should be fought against. Border security- local, national or international is essential. Otherwise we cannot retain our treasures.”
In the workshop at Tawang, Commandant Ganga Singh Udawat addressing the SSB personnel said, “We are the pillars of the society. As SSB cadres, we are the upholders of the law. All our heart and soul must go towards speaking for the voiceless. Wildlife cannot speak about the injustices done to them. It is us, who needs to make sure they are protected and they get justice.”
Both the SSB Commandants appreciated Aaranyak for addressing the lack of discussion and awareness amongst SSB cadres regarding such an important topic. They called upon Aaranyak to spend more such fruitful time with SSB personnel in the future holding such sessions that will help the force in effectively fighting for the cause of protecting wildlife.
Addressing the workshops, Dr Bibhab Kumar Talukdar highlighted the global perspectives of wildlife crime with respect to the Indian Subcontinent and how the wildlife in the biodiverse Northeast region is in peril.
He sensitized the SSB personnel on Aaranyak’s sustained efforts towards research and policy reform to protect the wildlife in the region. He pointed how Aaranyak acts as a catalyst with different stakeholders ranging from police to judiciary to general public, to spread awareness against wildlife crime.
The senior manager of Legal and Advocacy Division (LAD) of Aaranyak Dr Jimmy Borah addressing the workshop made presentations on how wildlife crime affects the society and why it needs to be prioritised. “Civil unrest, proliferation of zoonotic diseases, loss of livelihood, drug smuggling, arms trade is closely linked to illegal wildlife trade,” he said and flagged on how border guarding forces are of utmost importance in curbing illegal wildlife trade.
Aaranyak official Ivy Farheen Hussain in her presentation highlighted some case studies of Arunachal Pradesh in the recent years and discussed the way wildlife criminals operated locally. She also talked about the wildlife species most vulnerable to wildlife crime in the region and the reasons for it.
The SSB is deployed along the country’s borders with Nepal and Bhutan. It is one of the seven Central Armed Police Forces (CAPF) under the Ministry of Home Affairs (MHA).