Capacity Building for Crocs

Well….I have just returned from Corbett Tiger Reserve after spending 2 weeks there. It was great being back in Corbett and the focus of the visit was to initiate a capacity building programme for frontline forest staff here for monitoring crocodiles.

Forest Staff learning the basics of monitoring crocs

Drifting away from the standard classroom based format, I visited forest staff at frontline locations to undertake “hands on” field training exercises. At first even they thought this was an unusual way to go about things but  once we ventured out into the wilds of Corbett looking for crocs they were quite enthusiastic.

I planned my schedules on a daily basis taking small manageable groups of 2-3 forest staff who would have my undivided attention. February is characterized by early morning fog and we would often start our excursions once fog lifted.

During the programme the forest staff were taught to recognize crocodilian signs in their areas, which often indicate the presence of the animal there. They were also taught to differentiate between gharial and mugger crocodiles and estimate sizes of these animals. Crocodilian spoor and tail drag marks were also shown to them. Crocodilian scats which can often be confused with tiger scats were identified for them based on colouration.

Understanding Croc signs in the field

During these exercises they often asked me very interesting questions and were keen to learn more about these species which they often see on their patrols. Field excursions normally ended with an audio visual session specially prepared for these staff on a laptop which was easy to carry  to these remote locations.

Audio Visual and Q&A sessions with frontline forest staff
The training work continues well into the month of May during which the staff would also be introduced to understanding crocodilian nesting activity and nesting behaviour.....

Capacity Building Programme to enter final phase

These past few months in Corbett have been quite an experience. It has been wonderful interacting with forest staff during the course of the Capacity Buildling program on Crocs and Turtles. We have also had some wonderful times together doing preliminary surveys in Corbett.

The heavy monsoons have kept things on hold a bit, but now with the weather clearing up we head into Corbett within the next few weeks to conclude our capacity building work. We have a few more frontline forest staff to undertake capacity building work with and we are also looking forward to include trainees of the Uttarakhand Forest Department who are undergoing their initiation into the Department in Corbett into the programme.

Well, during these monsoon months we have not really been too idle. Awareness material for the staff has been published titled "The Crocodiles of Corbett Tiger Reserve" primarily in Hindi. We have also refined the powerpoint presentation for the staff and have called it "The Vanishing Gharial"

     The Crocodiles of Corbett Tiger Reserve...published in Hindi for the frontline forest staff of Corbett

As Capacity building work comes to an end within the next couple of months we have already started putting together our itenary for population and nesting surveys from the winter onwards with some wonderful forest staff to be a part of the stay tuned!!!!