• Success Story
Birds´ Own Guards
by B. Modi, Director - Nalsarovar Sanctuary
On February6,2006, a team of forest staff (the awardees) was posted at the roadside check post and was busy checking belongings of all passer by. There was a definite tip-off on poaching. We all went to Vekariya-Aniyari-Zamp Devathalthal. One motor cycle was approaching us from Dharaji end. I ordered them to check the bike. Mr. Zala jumped from the vehicle and tried to stop the bike but that was about to escape. The biker increased the speed sensing problem. To our surprise a determined Zala ran behind the bike. At that point of time a cattle herd was also crossing the road and the bike speed had to lowered. With the opportunity, Mr. Zala jumped on the pillion of bike and caught the biker tightly from back. There already was a pillion ri der who held a cotton bag very secured. The bike had to stop and the bag was checked. It contained 11 live water birds! The two men on the bike were arrested with help of the other staff came rushing to the spot and a case was booked against the offenders while the bike was seized. They were daily trippers of live birds from Dharaji to Dholka.

Even last year on January 13, 2005, the Nalsarovar Sanctuary staff received a tip-off from a paid informer that some poachers from Ranagadh village (famous for notoriety in bird poaching) were planning to sneak into the sanctuary . The vigilant staff of Nal instantly rushed to the areas where fishing nets were spread to catch birds. Movements within the water body of Nal is always very difficult as no speed boats could be pressed into service due to submerged vegetation. The place was about 10 kilometers away from the headquarters. A team of 14 staff was sent off but the group strength seemed small as compared to the number of criminals they had expected to encounter that resulted into a full-fledged conflict. One watchman was severely beaten. However, the team after a bloody battle could seize 60 fishing nets and 15 live birds could be recovered from the offenders. The team had succeeded in booking them under a case in a strong section of Wildlife Protection Act (1972). These were some of the incidences marked with detailed planning to deal with the hardcore criminals at Nalsarovar. Protection of the Sanctuary poses a big problem owing to the large spread of the water body and the submerged and emerging vegetation growing in water making some of the areas very difficult for speedy movement. Nal is surrounded by villages that have very meager resources and almost no alternatives for their livelihood except to depend upon the Sanctuary resources in various ways. Poaching, grazing and fishing, therefore, have become their way of life. The past record of the offences registered in the Sanctuary reveals that most of the times, due to some limiting factors discussed elsewhere in this document, the offences go unnoticed. However, the offences which have been registered show that the

NALSAROVAR WILDLIFE SANCTUARY : BASELINE DATA ON CONSERVATION PRACTICE

Area :
120.82 Sq. Km.

Division :
Nalsarovar Division

Range :
Nalsarovar, Nalsarovar (West) Major Entry Points 1. Vekariya Check Post,

Annual Budget :
50 lakhs (Approx.) Major Staff Composition : Permanent - 26 Casual - 15 Assistant Conservator of Forest - 1, Rangers - 2, Beat Officer - 5, Beat Guard - 8, Forester - 5, Forest Watcher - 10, Driver - 1, Boatman - 1, Gardener - 1 Infrastructure : Check Gate - 1, Watch Towers - 6 Interpretation Centre

Vehicles :
Gypsy - 1, Mini Truck - 01

Mode of Patrolling :
By Boats & on Canoes

Area Patrolled Per Day :
20 Sq. Km

Communication Facilities :
Wireless Base Station, Walkie-Talkie, Mobile Phones

Material Resources & Equipment :
Computer with printer , Solar light systems

Weaponry :
Revolver - 2, .12 Bore Gun – 10
offenders employ various methods for committing the offences. They resort to the use of boats- canoes, which can accommodate one or two persons and use the nets to trap the birds. In several instances, the nets have been seized and offences have been booked. Many of the offenders have been caught and produced before court. It has been learnt from the past experience that the offenders select nights to carry out their operations for the obvious reasons that at night the patrolling staff can hardly locate them from the distance and the offenders get enough opportunity to run away as soon as they listen to the sounds of approaching patrolling boats. It is also evident from the record that the maximum number of birds targeted by the activity is not going on, throughout the year. The catch, usually, is low during the rainy and winter seasons, where as it is high during the summer season. Fish caught in Nal gets ready market in Ahmedabad.)

Apart from fishing, the local villagers are also involved in grazing their cattle in the swampy areas of Nal, wherever the grasses are found growing. They graze their cattle on the islets also. The fishermen and the grazers use the boats and canoes for the purpose of fishing and grazing their cattle in Nal. There are about 200 boats and 500 canoes with the villagers.

The poachers have been known to employ ingenuous methods for trapping the birds. They tie a fishing net in the waters where the birds are made to fly and they get entangled in the net. These nets are known as 'Pakhad'. In some cases, a floating bed of grass is prepared, around which the net is spread. There is a string passing through the nets, which are controlled from some distance. In some cases, on these grass beds a live waterfowl, whose eyes are sewn shut using a thread is also kept as a decoy, due to which the birds get attracted and the string is pulled as soon as the birds congregate on this grass bed. The net immediately spreads on the sitting ducks and the operation is over. The poachers also use a new method in which certain food items soaked in some chemicals (forate), are thrown in the waters which are eaten by the birds that get sedated and are easy to catch.