The trend of poaching in Bhutan has proved to be increasing, going by the number of cases in which the poachers are being apprehended, within the park territories and protected areas.
Even with stern law provision in place, it has not served as deterrence to the poachers, but instead, in some incidence, park officials have nabbed poachers from within the core area of the park.
According to the Park Official of Jigme Singye Wangchuck National Park (JSWNP), Trongsa, Dorji Duba, there are new incident where poachers have gone into the interior area of the park for trapping musk deer.
He said that at one point of time, a team of forest officials from JSWNP, while on patrol in the park areas, especially those in the high altitude, apprehended four poachers. In another incident, the surveillance team also encountered poachers at the base of the Black Mountain, Joe Dorshingla.
Since poaching poses a huge threat to wildlife, the park has initiated an innovative approach system called SMART (Spatial Monitoring and Reporting Tool) patrolling.
The Park Official said SMART enables the park officials to curb poaching, and allocate scarce resources more effectively by identifying areas that are most at risk.
Through SMART patrolling, the officials can also gather data from ranger patrols and analyze poaching movement in the park.
The SMART focal person, Sonam Wangdi, said that SMART software generates report anytime and for any duration, and the field practitioners collect data on Global Positioning System (GPS) device every time they go to the fields.
“Conventional method of patrolling lack specific data and illegal forest product transactions could not be recorded,” Sonam Wangdi said.
However, through the implementation of modern digitalized method, SMART patrolling, the Park Official now have direct resources to the required places and individual efforts can be measured to enhance motivation.
The park officials are optimistic as the new method would bring significant impact and deter people from poaching and illegal animal trade.
According to Wildlife Conservation Division (WCD), the most pressing issues in wildlife trade is the Asian big cat – Royal Bengal tiger, snow leopard, leopard cat, musk deer for musk pod and Himalayan Black bear for its paws.
“Poachers in Bhutan are increasingly into such illegal act as the demand from Chinese counterpart increases.”
And in some situation, Bhutan has become a route of trading illegal wildlife parts. Forest Protection and Surveillance Unit (FPSU) of the Ministry of Agriculture and Forests have also caught poachers trading elephant and rhinoceros parts being moved to China through Bhutan from India.
The ministry, as per its revised penalty notice, has significantly raised the fines and penalties, with the sole intention of discouraging poaching, and similarly the anti-poaching patrol team has been mapping the routes and seasons of poaching.
JSWNP will be the second national park in the country to employ such new system of patrolling after Royal Manas National Park, and SMART has become popular methods in curbing poaching and illegal wildlife trade all over the world.