Wildlife SOS works to curb the illegal trade and trafficking of wildlife and wildlife products – birds, mammals and reptiles, along with pelts, bones and other body parts harvested from poached animals. Wildlife SOS’ anti-poaching squad, Forest Watch, consists of a complex network of informants gathering critical information on poachers and criminals involved in the illegal wildlife trade. Forest Watch has assisted the forest department, the police department and law enforcement agencies to crack down on traffickers and smugglers, recover animal skins, body parts, ivory and sometimes live animals from poachers, and even provide legal assistance where required. 

An estimated $8 to $10 billion is generated annually by wildlife trafficking and illegal trade in wildlife and wildlife products. The scale of these crimes on the black market is second only to narcotics. A large quantity and variety of wildlife products are smuggled from India to international markets. These include live animals such as birds and reptiles, along with skins, bones and other body parts from poached animals.

Historically, sloth bear cubs were poached from the wild for use in the ‘dancing’ bear trade within India, but with the eradication of the ‘Dancing Bear’ practice there was a marked reduction in bear poaching as per statistics. Wildlife SOS rescued 72 sloth bear cubs before they could be traded around over a period of 10 years. Most recently, Wildlife SOS worked closely with the Karnataka Forest Department, the Ministry of Environment and Forests, and the Wildlife Crime Control Bureau in India, as well as AVA Singapore and ACRES to repatriate more than 50 Indian star tortoises that were illegally trafficked to Singapore. We have recovered animal skins and ivory from poachers and traders in numerous Indian states as well.

Our grassroots-level training programs and workshops, held in states like Maharashtra, Jammu & Kashmir and Karnataka, help with capacity-building and target wildlife crime prevention in the field. We conduct training programs and workshops to train law enforcement officers at the fundamental level to help build capacity in the front line through strategic staffing of forest departments and enforcement agencies.

We extend gratitude to our partners, One Voice Association (France) and Hauser Bears (UK) for their invaluable support in running this dedicated anti-poaching unit.

Objective: Forest Watch assists the forest department, the police department and law enforcement agencies to crack down on traffickers and smugglers, recover animal skins, body parts, ivory and sometimes live animals from poachers, and even provide legal assistance where required. We offer further assistance by conducting grassroots-level training workshops focusing on capacity building and wildlife crime prevention in the field. 

Scope: Regulating or mitigating cases of wildlife trafficking and providing legal help where needed.

Location/Region: Pan-India.

Milestones: 

  • A large number of sloth bears under our care have been rescued till date, including five sloth bears that were seized from the Indo-Nepal border in 2019 and repatriation of a dancing bear that was smuggled across the Indo-Nepal border in 2018.
  • Infamous tiger poacher Bhima Bawariya caught with the help of ‘Forest Watch’.
  • Major snake seizures from snake charmers every Shravan season.
  • Every year, a large number of birds like the Horned Owl, are rescued with intel from our anti-poaching unit, or by the team themselves, from being sacrificed in dark magic rituals.
  • With the help of Karnataka Forest Dept. and ACRES, more than 50 smuggled Indian star tortoises were repatriated from Singapore in October 2018.

Timeline:

  • 1995 establishment of the anti-poaching unit.

Project needs:

  • Field kits for the staff – sleeping bags, torches, binoculars, tents etc
  • Support kits for local informants – boots, socks, flash lights etc.
  •  Logistic support – vehicles, fuel etc.
  • Equipment – walkie-talkies, burner phones etc.
  • Legal and technical support.
  • Seasonal clothing and proper gear for intensive work throughout the year.
  • Medical equipment, support and first aid kits for medical emergencies.

Other collaborating groups: State forest departments.

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