The World Wildlife Fund (WWF) and the Rajaji National Park authorities are planning to take up a special project to provide better livelihood opportunities to people dependent on the forest.
In the first phase of the project, around 50 families of the Sapera (or snake-charmer) community - known to be involved in wildlife crimes -- of the Mothrawala area would be benefitted, while in the second, the project would concentrate on foresters residing in southern frontier of the park.
The communities residing in this part of the forest use firewood heavily and were also found involved in several
illegal felling and poaching activities.
“Our objective is to minimise wildlife crime while providing livelihood opportunities to communities that are dependent on the flora and fauna of the forest. We are in the process of creating a project that will rope in all such communities, including the Saperas of Mothrawala and villages located in the southern boundary of the park,” park director Neena Grewal told Hindustan Times.
The Saperas, traditionally snake charmers, lost their source of earning after the Wildlife Protection Act came into being in 1972.
During a raid on January 16 earlier this year, the Rajaji National Park authorities had arrested two persons and recovered lizards, jackal hoofs, pangolin scales and turtles from them from the Haridwar forest division.
The team also found that the Sapera community and people residing near the southern boundary of the forest were involved in the smuggling.
Taking note of the frequent forest crimes and involvement of these foresters, the park administration decided to tackle the increasing threat to wildlife through a holistic plan of educating and offering
livelihood opportunities to them.
“The objective of the project is to reduce source dependency of people on the forest thereby, minimising human-animal conflict,” AK Singh, team leader of Terai Arc Landscap (TAL), WWF said.
“We really need to reduce the dependency of people on the forest besides mitigating man-animal conflict. We will be conducting a survey in this regard to understand the requirements of the people. It will be a two way communication addressing issues of communities as well as animals,” Singh said.
Alternative source of earnings would be provided by training communities in handicrafts and other works.