Tribal watchers to train 17 rapid response teams
KOZHIKODE: Following the success of ‘Wayanad Commandos’–a specialist team, comprising of tribal watchers, handling wildlife straying incidents –the forest department has decided to send personnel from 17 rapid response teams (RRTs) across the state to Wayanad so that they can learn tribal animal-tracking techniques. Trackers belonging to various RRTs will be provided field-oriented training by these tribal watchers in Wayanad forests. The training would involve tracking wild animals, especially elephants, and driving animals that stray into human habitat back to the forests.Chief wildlife warden K J Varughese said that the training will require five days. “The specialist team in Wayanad has unique skills and indigenous knowledge in tracking wildlife. They drive stray animals back to the forest. Such skills are necessary for RRTs while dealing with exigencies involving wildlife. The on-field training will be conducted by experienced tribal watchers of Wayanad Wildlife Sanctuary (WWS),” he said, adding that staff from various RRT had undergone one round of training at Peechi.
The forest department has been banking on the team of experienced tribal watchers and 12-member RRT attached to WWS to deal with animal straying incidents in Kerala.”Driving stray elephants back to the forests is more effective when it is undertaken after evening. Also, elephants would follow the route they had originally taken on their way back to the forests. Tribal watchers from Wayanad have such intimate knowledge of wildlife and sophisticated animal tracking skills that were honed over generations,” said a senior forest official.
The Wayanad team was recently sent to Palakkad where three wild elephants had strayed nearly 45km from their forest habitats. Also the team had been involved in managing similar incidents at Idukki, Aralam and Agali. Department officials said that steps were being taken to strengthen RRTs in conflict hotspots by inducting more tribal trackers as watchers on contract basis.