About the Implementing organization
Village Tiger Response Team
Year of establishment: 2007
Type of organization: Community-based association or organization
Human Tiger Conflict (HTC) is one of the major threats to tiger conservation in Bangladesh that results stray tiger killing, loss of human life and livestock. Tiger loss directly impacts on tiger population while livestock and human loss create negative tolerance towards tigers in the community. It is believed that the HTC cannot be stopped but it can be reduced. If the threat of stray tiger killing is reduced or removed then it is assumed that the tiger population can recover through normal reproduction. Keeping this in mind, WildTeam (formerly Wildlife Trust of Bangladesh) took an initiative to build a team who will instantly respond to any kind of HTC incidents inside village and keep role as primary manager.
The first Village Tiger Response Team (VTRT) was established in 2007 in Chandpai range of Sundarbans. At that time only two teams named were formed in that area because of the high frequency of stray tiger incidents. Those two teams immediately got accepted by the local people by showing their capability of handling HTC incidents in their area. The success story of the two groups was used to motivate people in other villages to establish other VTRT groups. By 2010, 29 teams were established by WildTeam in the villages adjacent to Sundarbans area, and by the end of 2012 a total of 49 teams of VTRTs were established covering 80% of the border villages in four ranges of Sundarbans. Currently, VTRTs have 340 members including 20 women.
The VTRT is a community driven mechanism and their main roles are to manage the HTC situations inside village and to provide HTC data on a regular basis to manage the WildTeam’s HTC database. But over the time they became involved with different kind of non-HTC activities like social awareness, facilitate the compensation support for tiger victims and their families, other wild animals rescue which stray out from the forest etc. VTRTs also take part in inside forest HTC management like retrieve the dead or injured human body and livestock. To manage any emergency stray tiger situation, they coordinate with WildTeam, Bangladesh Forest Department, local administrative bodies and other local influencers.
From 2007 to 2018, VTRTs successfully facilitated to rescue and set free 3 tigers, and more than 349 other wild animals (deer, wild boar, fishing cat, python, crocodiles, turtle, otter, bird, monkey, Bengal monitor, Water monitor, wild fox etc.). They effectively managed 30 stray tiger incidents and sent them back to the forest, conducted 140 patrolling inside villages, recovered 27 dead bodies of tiger victims. They also provided emergency first-aid to 7 people injured for tiger attacks, and conducted a total of 2949 village meetings to raise awareness for HTC management. Apart from that, VTRTs helped Forest Department and firefighters to manage 12 fire incidents in the Sundarbans, Bangladesh.
As a community based voluntary organization, VTRT never gets any monthly remuneration or any monetary benefits for their services. The incentives of VTRT members are more related to the social status that they receive after becoming VTRT members. The villagers respect them as heroes and their leaders.
The theme of VTRT initiative was adopted by IUCN Bangladesh to form their Elephant Response Team focusing Asian Elephant conservation. Moreover, Ms Erlinda C. Kartika, an officer from Indonesian Forest Department did her internship on VTRT initiative of WildTeam and replicated it to minimize Tiger Human Conflict in some parts of Sumatra, Indonesia.
VTRTs were featured and highlighted in different national and international print and electronic media for their outstanding contribution in tiger conservation in Bangladesh. Bangladesh government also recognized VTRT as a community based voluntary organization in conservation and awarded with prestigious ‘Bangabandhu Award for Wildlife Conservation’ in 2017.
Type of Action
Ecosystem protection︱Sustainable use of natural resources︱Awareness building and education
Sustainable Development Element
Education︱Sustainable communities and disaster risk reduction︱Sustainable consumption and production︱Partnerships
During the time period of 2007 to 2018, VTRTs rescued 352 wild animals including tiger, deer, wild boar, fishing cat, python, crocodiles, turtle, otter, bird, monkey, Bengal monitor, water monitor, wild fox etc. and thus contributed maintaining the health of Sundarbans ecosystem. Awareness raising and training activities of VTRT for forest resource collectors on sustainable forest resource collections and sporadic forest fire management ultimately impact sustainable ecosystem conservation. Since VTRTs’ inception, the number of stray tigers killing reduced. They work in close association with the Forest Department, local administration and communities and create a platform for sustainable conservation of natural resources of Sundarbans.
Sundarbans protects adjacent communities from cyclones and helps mitigate climate change by sequestering carbon. As a big carnivore and flagship species tiger requires large swathes of forest to live that makes it an “umbrella” species and therefore acts as a focal point for conserving ecosystem that provides invaluable services for humans and wildlife alike. In that sense, protection of tiger means protection of Sundarbans. VTRTs are working for saving tigers, others wildlife and their habitat, promoting sustainable livelihoods and ecotourism. Most of their activities ultimately contribute to mitigate climate change impacts. More forest area means natural climate solutions e.g. reducing greenhouse gas emissions, limiting global warming etc. So, every single effort of VTRT towards tiger protection directly and indirectly supporting forest protection, thus, supports climate resilience.
Sustainable Development Impacts
Since VTRT started its journey, they were involved in alternative income generating activities. They also encouraged other community people to reduce dependency on forest and forest resources to enhance financial stability and environmental sustainability. VTRT runs honey farms, various fields of handicrafts, and promotes eco-tourism in the communities. Moreover, VTRT initiative has also been incorporated in draft Protected Area Management Rule by the Ministry of Environment, Forest and Climate Change, Bangladesh.
RESILIENCE, ADAPTABILITY, AND SELF-SUFFICIENCY
VTRT members are residents of local communities who live with the community as an example of a wildlife warrior. There are many VTRT members who get injured by tigers, lost their family members and properties, they are the symbol of unique resistance and tolerance towards tiger in the communities. Despite of those facts, VTRTs continue to disseminate message about the importance of tiger and their habitat protection. Besides, they work to create resilience of human feelings about tiger and balance between emotions and practicality of local communities in this region. Trained VTRTs act as a skill transfer messenger on scientific resource collection, alternative income generations and management of human tiger conflict that make local communities adaptive with any tiger incidences and other environmental challenges around the Sundarbans.VTRT has been formed with combinations of people from different social groups like resource collectors, shopkeeper, teachers, religious leaders, local elected members and doctors what represent almost all social groups of the community. So, VTRT’s activities and decisions ultimately reflected as the community decision. In context of different age groups, VTRT members are from teenagers, young, subadult and adult which is a unique balance of different age groups in a single community like VTRT. Along with that since 2016 female representatives of the community have been serving as VTRT members, which is another unique example of gender equality and equity in voluntary conservation group. For regular activities, VTRT coordinates with local administrative bodies and thus maintain the communications between root level conservation groups and government bodies.
VTRT has been formed with combinations of people from different social groups like resource collectors, shopkeeper, teachers, religious leaders, local elected members and doctors what represent almost all social groups of the community. So, VTRT’s activities and decisions ultimately reflected as the community decision. In context of different age groups, VTRT members are from teenagers, young, subadult and adult which is a unique balance of different age groups in a single community like VTRT. Along with that since 2016 female representatives of the community have been serving as VTRT members, which is another unique example of gender equality and equity in voluntary conservation group. For regular activities, VTRT coordinates with local administrative bodies and thus maintain the communications between root level conservation groups and government bodies.
Since the formation of VTRTs in 2007, all members were men. The communities around the Sundarbans periphery are mostly conservative and traditionally have not allowed women to work alongside men in physical and potentially dangerous outdoor tasks especially those undertaken by the VTRTs. Nevertheless, through awareness raising activities and with the support of VTRTs, in 2016, 14 women volunteers were inducted into five VTRTs. Currently, there are 20 women volunteers in eight teams and these motivated, courageous women are already having a dramatic effect on community peoples’ attitudes towards both social norms and wildlife conservation in the Sundarbans. Besides, an education program supported by the VTRTs sought to improve the knowledge of, and attitudes towards wildlife, among women throughout the Sundarbans communities. A survey conducted under the USAID’s Bagh Activity revealed that 78.4% women had adequate knowledge on wildlife conservation, while 80.1% showed positive attitudes towards wildlife conservation.
Moreover, to improve women’s empowerment and to reduce the impact on forest resources, women were trained on environmentally sustainable income generation activities, for example, handicrafts and beekeeping where VTRTs and/or their family members participated mostly and VTRT actively provided support to implement the program. Under the USAID’s Bagh Activity, 496 women were trained in these skills which provided them with a potential income stream.
When the VTRT was formed, it was considered the marginalized community people living adjacent to the Sundarbans Reserved Forest. People living there have poor access to health, education, communication, livelihood and other options. Besides, there were different age groups’ representations in the teams ranging from adult to youth. Youth were included to carry out the conservation activities and bringing significant changes as a change maker in the society in the field of wildlife conservation. Elders like adult people were also included for their acceptance and influence in the society which is considered as a vital part of team management. Among the 340 VTRT members, 80 are youth, 260 adults whereas 45 represent the local influential group (local leader, religious leader, businessman, teacher, etc.) of the community.
The voluntary approach was extended from one range (Chandpai) of Sundarbans Reserve Forest (world’s largest mangrove forest) to other three ranges (Sarankhola, Khulna and Satkhira) due to its efficiency and effectiveness on tiger conservation approaches and accessibility. This expansion is done through conservation need assessment, assessment of threats for tiger and assessing the demands from the communities. In the hilly area of Bangladesh, where there is a native population of the Asian Elephant, a similar approach titled as Elephant Response Team has been adopted by IUCN Bangladesh.
Erlinda C. Kartika, an officer from Indonesian Forest Department did her internship on VTRT initiative with WildTeam and replicated it to minimize Human Tiger Conflict in some parts of Sumatra as a piloting basis and planning to incorporate the initiative in government policies to be implemented in other HTC prone areas.
Share this solution: