Forest rangers from across Asia began intensive counter poaching operations training today under a new U.S. government funded program called ARREST (Asia’s Regional Response to Endangered Species Trafficking).
More than 50 park rangers from Bhutan, India, Indonesia, Laos and Thailand will train together for the next two weeks under the guidance of experienced instructors at Khao Yai National Park’s Regional Nature Protection Training Center in Nakhon Ratchasima Province. This includes a woman from Indonesia’s SPORC (Satuan Polisi Hutan Reaksi Cepat – Rapid Reaction Forest Police) Brigade, the first female officer to be trained by ARREST.
Designed to dramatically improve the security of Asia’s remaining forest reserves through enhanced patrolling and law enforcement, the PROTECT (Protected Area Operational and Tactical Enforcement Conservation Training) course delivers best practice training in navigation, patrolling, first aid, reconnaissance, raids, takedowns, arrest, search, crime scene processing, and other skills park rangers need.
Wildlife and forests are under fierce attack by poachers, traffickers and illegal loggers across Asia. Organized criminal groups are racking up billions of dollars in profits, largely due to inadequate protection of the natural resources they target in national parks, sanctuaries and other so called “protected areas”. Poaching gangs are plundering forests to supply trafficking syndicates with everything from tigers, bears, deer, and elephant ivory, to various kinds of plants and trees, such as aloe-wood, teak, and other valuable species. Gangs often exploit local villagers to take risks poaching. Park patrolling and enforcement is crucial to protect wild animals, plants and habitats, which comprise the healthy ecosystems that local agriculture and communities depend on.
Opening the course, Deputy Director-General of Thailand’s Department of National Park, Wildlife and Plant Conservation, Dr. Theerapat Prayurasddhi said, “This course will enhance cooperation between countries. We have seen animals being trafficked back and forth across Thai-Lao border and other borders. It’s time for us to stop illegal wildlife trade at the source; this course represents an important step.”
FREELAND Director of Field Operations and course instructor Mark Bowman, also encouraged participants, stating, “The more effort you put into this course, the more skill and knowledge you’ll take away to pass on to your fellow officers to protect your country’s natural resources and future.”
Designed and delivered by FREELAND Foundation, the PROTECT course utilizes ASEAN Center for Biodiversity (ACB) competency standards for protected area law enforcement jobs. With support from ACB, the ASEAN Wildlife Enforcement Network (ASEAN-WEN) and other ARREST partners, this course will be adapted and delivered across Asia during the next five years to strengthen forest protection.
This inaugural regional PROTECT training course at Khao Yai National Park is hosted by Thailand’s Department of National Park, Wildlife and Plant Conservation and sponsored by the U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID).