Training National Park guards in site protection and wildlife monitoring
All release sites are located within protected areas and National Parks in Assam. Therefore, to ensure the continued protection and improved management of these sites and to assist PHCP staff in protecting and monitoring released hogs the programme works closely with the Assam Forest Department, providing support and training to frontline staff at each kay protected area.
As part of the Darwin Initiative project the ‘Training Course for Frontline Field Staff of Assam on Monitoring and Protecting Wildlife’ was launched conducting intensive training with selected participants from Manas, Nameri, Orang, and Barnadi protected areas. As part of the course posters, manuals, trainee guides and data recording booklets were produced in English as well as in local language, Assamese, for use and distribution among trainees. A range of field-based tools and infrastructure supporting Assam’s capacity for protected area management was also established. Since the end of the project it has been agreed that the Forest Department will take efforts to incorporate the monitoring system as part of the regular duties of frontline field staff and the PHCP support them by continuing to deliver training at the Assam Forest School.
Raising awareness and support in local communities
Delivering a programme of community-based biodiversity and environmental education, outreach and sustainable development is key to building community involvement and support for the conservation of the tall grasslands and wildlife including the pygmy hogs. Efforts have been concentrated on the communities surrounding the Manas National Park as these grasslands support the last remaining wild population of pygmy hogs and human pressures are continuing to impact the grasslands despite the protected area status.
The programme works closely with local communities to understand their needs in terms of resource use from the grasslands, so that workable, sustainable, and socially acceptable alternatives in the rural areas outside the park can be identified and developed. Proejct staff support villagers in forming Self Help Groups through which member households have acquired new skills and honed their existing ones in weaving, sewing, handicrafts, food preservation, betelnut leaf plate making, piggery, and farming. In support of the project villagers have pledged to reduce resource use from the Manas by promoting
sustainable cultivation of cash crops (ginger, vegetables, rubber, etc.) and small timber
A trainers’ training programme for school teachers and local NGO members has been implemented and at least seventy school teachers from local schools in the fringe villages of Manas have been trained in conducting environmental education among community members including school children. Some of the trainees are being assisted to generate awareness in conservation of pygmy hog and its grassland habitat in schools.