Wilderness Volunteers

A write-up on the ongoing Joint patrolling program at Bhimashankar Wildlife Sanctuary, Maharashtra

A write-up on the ongoing Joint patrolling program at Bhimashankar Wildlife Sanctuary, Maharashtra
-Dr.Susan Sharma, IndianWildlifeClub.com

In 2013, we conducted an online survey on the volunteering space in wildlife conservation in the Indian context.  The survey was administered to individual IWC members and to NGOs/Others in the space interested in recruiting volunteers.  We received 496 responses in all.   
The salient features which came through from the respondents’ comments are,
1.Many well known institutions take in paid volunteers (volunteers pay for the privilege of working with them).  This model may not exactly suit Indian volunteers.  Paid volunteerism in India is not well documented or followed up.
2.India has always had good environment laws and wildlife laws but the implementation on the ground has been lacking. 
3.Concerns expressed by many potential volunteers we surveyed included lack of transparency in recruiting and deployment of volunteers and lack of follow up action on work done by volunteers. 
4.70% of respondents were willing to volunteer for free
The graphs below are self explanatory. 

Wildlife Research and Conservation Society (WRCS), an NGO from Pune contacted us asking if we can provide volunteers for their project in Melghat Tiger Reserve (MTR).   With active inputs from Shri.Jayant Kulkarni of WRCS, we created an online platform to recruit volunteers online for the MTR project.  For this one year project, IWC provided 70 volunteers over a period of one year.
In the words of the Directors of WRCS
"We believe that the volunteer patrolling program helped in improving protection of forests and wildlife. There was no incidence of poaching in Jarida Range during the implementation of the program. The Forest Department staff also, by and large, welcomed the program because it helped them in protection of the forests and wildlife."
Jayant Kulkarni, executive director of WRCS, said, the volunteering program developed good relations with the locals and the latter were inspired to work for the environment, too.  Moreover, with the “Volunteers extra manpower, frequency of patrolling also increased."

Efforts made by IWC in promoting the volunteer space
In addition to online chat sessions for potential volunteers, IWC resource persons also visited colleges in Delhi ( IIITD, St. Stephens)to give presentations about the need for volunteering.

Bhimashankar Joint Patrolling Program
In 2015, the forest department of Pune started a volunteer patrol programme at Bhimashankar Wildlife Sanctuary to give civilians a taste of what it entails and to involve them further in conservation activities.   The initiative aimed to deepen the connection between forests and civilians and also to enable greater understanding of the work that the department does.  With the active involvement of CCF Wildlife Shri Sunil Limaye assisted by Smt. Kirti Jamdade ACF, we created a platform where volunteers can apply online and submit the documents required by the Forest Department.  The program for joint patrolling was rolled out in October 2015.    

The August 2016 batch of volunteers with CCF, Sunil Limaye
Photo credt-Nidheesh Nair

Over a period of over one year since the start of the program  51   volunteers have applied for the program.   25 have completed the patrolling program and received their certificates.   Mr Yogesh Alekari,  is helping in co-coordinating the program from Pune.

Feedback from Volunteers
  "By far the best thing happened in 2015 was :  One week of volunteer patrolling with forest guards in Bhimashankar Wildlife sanctuary."   Wish I could live in the wilderness forever... — Kevin Bhide , Bangalore 
“It was an amazing experience to work with the forest department. Definitely things seem completely different when we put ourselves in their shoe. Working in such a diverse forest as Western Ghats with highly experienced and motivated people was something I will cherish over a life time. I'm grateful to Indian Wildlife Club, Co-ordinator of the programme Mr. Yogesh Alekari and the team for allowing me such an opportunity. I wish to stay connected and be part of programs by Indian Wildlife Club in the future and pay my contribution towards environment and society.”
 Sudarshan Kalwale, Pune
“During patrolling, the information on various flowers/trees and their use, characteristics received from forest guards was very useful. The program could been more systematic if IWC and Forest Department could have provided us a more detailed schedule for seven days to avoid randomness and coordination related issues.  Overall a mesmerising experience in the lap of nature and I strongly recommend this program for all the nature lovers out there.”
-Jayashri Dumbre, Navi Mumbai 

We have also carried trip reports/blogs by participants which can be read in our earlier e-zine issues.  

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