Frontline heroes in conservation and COVID-19 control | WWF

Frontline heroes in conservation and COVID-19 control

Posted on
28 May 2020


With the number of coronavirus infections in neighbouring India rising, increased security and prevention measures are needed in the Sarpang, Samtse, and Samdrup Jongkhar districts that border the Indian states of Assam and West Bengal. Forest rangers, who have the most experience patrolling these wild and secluded areas, have been supporting the Royal Government of Bhutan’s security efforts by providing round-the-clock surveillance of all formal and informal border crossing points.
 
More than 200 rangers from different protected areas such as the Royal Manas National Park (RMNP), Jomotshangkha Wildlife Sanctuary (JWS),  Phibsoo Wildlife Sanctuary (PWS), Sarpang Forest Division, and Samtse Forest Division have been deputed along the southern borders since early April. They join hundreds of armed forces such as the Royal Bhutan Police and Royal Bhutan Army and community volunteers.
 
“Work-from-patrol”

These rangers face a new challenge of continuing their conservation duties while fulfilling this new mission to protect the people of Bhutan against an equally menacing threat. They now patrol for both border trespassing as well as illegal wildlife activities and spend any free time to follow up on their work via email and phone-calls, however if they are able to connect to an internet network.
 
“As rangers, it is our duty to protect our environment and wildlife but as citizens of Bhutan, it is our duty to serve our people and country, especially during such a crisis. We are doing our best to fulfill both these duties with this new assignment.” said Ranger Sonam Wangdi of the Royal Manas National Park.
 
COVID-19 patrolling is managing HWC and IW activities well
 
The enhanced surveillance across the country has been aiding conservation work in the southern region of Bhutan. Rangers have reported that this new assignment has allowed them to strengthen efforts to control illegal wildlife activities and human-wildlife conflict.
 
Phub Dhendup, Chief Forestry Officer at Sarpang Forest Division reports that HWC incidents with elephants in some communities in Sarang have seen a surprising decrease since the increase of patrolling activities by rangers Sarpang armed forces. Cases of hunting and illegal fishing in these areas are being reported by these armed forces to the rangers, signaling an effective partnership to combat threats to wildlife in these landscapes.
 
Similarly, rangers who now have the authority to check vehicle movement along the borders with this new assignment, have been able to apprehend and penalize a number of offenders for illegal fishing, logging, and wood smuggling. These incidents prove that such illegal wildlife activities continue to persist even with the enforcements made to restrict human movement during this global pandemic.
 
In service to protect human and wildlife

Not only are the rangers guarding Bhutan’s southern landscapes from unrelenting illegal wildlife activities and the threat of COVID-19, the rangers have also been serving the communities that live near these borders in a number of ways. From helping households to start vegetable gardens and delivering essential food items to constructing outposts and base camps at different Point of Entries (PoEs), these rangers are committed to keep both wildlife and people safe and free of harm during these difficult times.
 
“This emergency situation calls on the nation to take the opportunity to serve our king, country, and people during such a crisis. It has motivated all of us to render all of our services to contain the COVID-19 situation in Bhutan and although we face many challenges, we will keep providing any support that is needed from us.” says Thinley Wangdi, Chief Forestry Officer at Samtse Forest Division