With the astonishing success of the Village Wildlife Guardians programme in Ranthambore Tiger Reserve in India, this year the project is being introduced in Kanha National Park with sponsorship from Steppes Travel.
In December 2014, TOFTigers, in partnership with Tigerwatch and the Field Director of Ranthambore Tiger Reserve in India, launched a project to recruit up to 20 Village Wildlife Guardians. Particular emphasis was placed in those villages prone to wildlife conflicts with the large population of villagers bordering the famous Ranthambore Tiger Reserve. Over the past few years the projects results have been astonishing. Poachers have been caught red-handed, animal movements monitored across huge areas of landscape, dens protected, illegal mining and wood chopping stopped and the villager’s safety improved. In fact it’s been such a success that the Field Director of Ranthambore wants more guardians. This year the programme is being introduced in Kanha National Park and Steppes Travel are sponsoring the project with other partners.
How the programme works
Tigerwatch recruits and coordinates each individual guardian, trains them and pays them a retainer to report to the local park authorities any suspicious movements or activities on the fringes of the park near their homes and farmlands, including potential poaching activities for both tigers but crucially for prey species like wild boar, spotted and sambar deer, as well as illegal logging or interference with wildlife den sites of creatures like hyenas, wolves, foxes, sloth bear or leopards, often moving outside the park. A few individuals are also skilled trackers and can be used to track tigers who stray out of the park often for weeks on end as they search for food and new territory.
The Village Guardians eyes and ears provide invaluable information, and help secure the very porous boundaries of the park. Their cooperation is the difference between life and death for many creatures (and even villagers), and ensures all the parks flora and fauna can survive to live another day.
Village Guardians undertake a two-day intensive training course where they are taught the key elements of their new role on behalf of the Forest department. One or two guardians, who have the ability to communicate with visitors, are also trained as guides to any visitors or sponsors who want to meet them in the field.
Steppes Travels sponsorship will contribute to paying a monthly fee to the individual for being the ‘eyes and ears’ of their community. They get the use of a smartphone to report and photograph signs, sightings and any valuable poaching intelligence they acquire to the forest range officers of the respective parks – invaluable information for protection teams. Please ask our travel expert to arrange a meeting with the Steppes’ designated guardian during your holiday to Kanha National Park so you can visit their village and learn more about the work they do.
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