In 2004, the Forest Department of Kerala had succeeded in the arrest of 23 wildlife poachers. In an attempt to avoid the re-offense of these individuals they formed the Vidiyal Vanapathukappu Sangam, an eco-development committee comprised of reformed poachers, offering them training and an alternative livelihood option. The initiative has been so successful that the model is being replicated in other reserves and sanctuaries across the country.
Periyar National Park and the Marayoor district in Kerala, India
The poaching and wildlife trade problem
Species affected Bengal Tiger Panthera tigris tigris , Sandalwood Santalum albumProducts in trade
Timber from sandalwood trees and tiger products.
Overview of the problem
Poaching is carried out by organised crime gangs and smugglers local to the area, motivated by lack of alternative livelihood options.
The anti-IWT initiative
After the arrest of a gang of 23 wildlife poachers, officials from the Kerala Forest Department decided to start a rehabilitation initiative to stop these individuals from re-offending. After consultations between the forest departments and experts in the field they set up Vidiyal Vanapathukappu Sangam, which they described as an eco-development committee. The group was comprised of reformed poachers, all of whom went through a three-month training period. The group carries out patrols and anti-poaching activities as well as participating in the local tourism industry through safaris, bamboo-rafting and as tourist guides. If any of the individuals involved are found to be carrying out poaching activities, they are expelled from the group indefinitely.
Strengthening disincentives for illegal behaviour
The group carry out night and day patrols and anti-poaching activities. The group have also helped to identify other poachers within the region.
Increasing incentives for wildlife stewardship
The group are involved in tourism-related activities such as bamboo rafting, elephant safaris and local guides.
Improving education and awarenessFurther detail
As part of the three-month training course the group were educated on the importance of conservation.
Has the initiative made a difference?
Of the 23 individuals involved at the start of the project, six have either left or been expelled. The remaining 17 have found stability through the project and many have been able to send their children on to further education as a result. The group has also facilitated the arrest of over 230 gangs engaged in poaching and smuggling in Periyar National Park and they have transformed the Marayoor Sandalwood reserve into a poaching free zone.
Organisers, donors and partners
Kerala Forest and Wildlife Department
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