7 July 2016: SMART was first introduced in 2013 with an objective to curb illegal activities. SMART is a site-based approach used to monitor and improve the effectiveness of conservation management. Despite numerous trainings and advocacy, RMNP is the lone agency under the Department of Forests and Park Services who effective used SMART tool in patrolling. On the contrary, protected area systems in Bhutan are all prone to poaching of one wildlife or the other. JSWNP on the other hand forms an indispensible conservation landscape as it connects Northern Protected Area Systems with the Trans boundary Manas Conservation Area through biological corridors. Moreover, JSWNP in itself harbours a good diversity of life with 39 mammal species, 270 birds, 139 butterflies, and numerous other life forms. Perhaps with 7 cat species, JSWNP is hotspots for wild felids. The 2015 National Tiger Survey revealed the presence of 12 individual tigers with an estimate of 14-26 tigers. Results also indicated that a viable breeding population of tigers are thriving in JSWNP, which calls for regular monitoring through patrolling.
As per the resolutions of the Third National Park Conference held in Lam Pelri in 2015, JSWNP trained the park staffs on how to use SMART tool during a weeklong training held in January 2016. Two staff were sent for advance training at Chitwan National Park in Nepal in April 2016. Rigorously, the frontline staffs of JSWNP started using the innovative SMART (Spatial Monitoring and Reporting Tool) system in patrolling the forests in May and June 2016. The effort came in a time when nation celebrated for wildlife with the theme, “Go Wild for Life: Zero tolerance for the Illegal Wildlife Trade.”
The result generated from the SMART software shows that 21 frontline staffs of JSWNP have executed 19 patrols in the last two months (May and June), accumulating 54 patrol days. A total of 662.29 km stretch of forest was patrolled. Through the tool the park also could produce animal distribution map through recorded animal presence evidences. Evidences of major carnivores like leopard (Panthera pardus), Tiger (Panthera tigris tigris), Asiatic Golden Cat (Catopuma temminckii), Asiatic Black Bear (Ursus thibetanus), Red Panda (Ailurus fulgens) and herbivores like Gaur (Bos gaurus), Serow (Capricornis sumatraensis thar), Goral (Naemorhedus goral), Wild Pig (Sus scrofa), Barking Deer (Muntiacus muntjak), Sambar Deer (Rusa unicolor) and Himalayan musk deer (Moschus chrysogaster) were recorded while patrolling. Most important of all, the SMART tool helped map the conservation threats like evidences of poaching and illegal harvestings.
“The result has been wonderful and now we have clear picture of areas that require constant monitoring. We could establish new patrol routes.” The Chef Forestry Officer said. “Strategic planning is key to success in curbing wildlife poaching and the current SMART report will help us plan strategically for allocating limited resources. We are happy to follow suites of RMNP in implementing SMART”
However, executing SMART patrolling is not possible without adequate field equipment and trained human resources. Geographic terrain and adverse weather conditions sets another barrier. “During anti-poaching patrolling, the probability of encountering the poachers is never zero. Without arms and weapons, I feel that the lives of Rangers are at stake.” Sangay Tshewang, SMART Focal for JSWNP said. “It is very difficult to get community support as porter as there is no provision for enough porter wages. This pose problem when patrolling is for longer duration.”
Meanwhile an Executive Order has been issued by Ministry of Agriculture and Forests to launch SMART in all the protected areas and territorial divisions. JSWNP will continue to strive enforce SMART patrol and produce SMART Reports quarterly, unless necessary.
In a separate wildlife inventory, an attempt to checklist herpetofuana, JSWNP has recorded the presence of 16 snakes, 7 Lizards, 8 frogs and 2 toads. However this list is restricted to only Taksha Park Range. A comprehensive survey of Herpetofauna will be conducted in the coming FY.
These conservation milestones are results of World Wildlife Fund, Funded project “Intensive priority Conservation through Community participation for maintaining via Biodiversity and Ecological Connectivity in B2C2 landscape” in Jigme Singye Wangchuck National Park.
Reported by: Letro, Forestry Officer, JSWNP
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