Malaria hits anti-poaching efforts

Malaria has affected management of Pakke Tiger Reserve in Arunachal Pradesh. Vibha Varshney talks to Nandini Velho of National Centre for Biological Sciences in Bengaluru about her study, published in the September issue of Biological Conservation

 
By Vibha Varshney
Published: Thursday 15 September 2011

Nandini VelhoDescribe your study and its findings.



From 2006 to 2009 over 70 per cent of the forest staff in the reserve, which lies in a protected area in the Eastern Himalayan global biodiversity hotspot, suffered from malaria. Its treatment cost park managers nearly three per cent of their total budget besides an annual loss of 44,160 man hours of anti-poaching effort. The cost of treatment of malaria can go up to Rs 6,000 per episode of malaria, about 1.5 times the monthly salary of contingency forest staff.

Give examples of how wildlife conservation efforts are suffering due to malaria in your study area.

We are yet to look into the fine scale patterns of how poaching incidents are directly related to staff illness. But there are indications. Almost every forest watcher has an incident to narrate about how malaria has affected him. Teron Babu, a forester and camp in-charge of the Nameri anti-poaching camp in the core of the reserve, wants to be transferred out of Pakke after he suffered malaria three times in a year and a half.

What is the solution?

The forest and health departments will have to work together. The forest department should institute awareness camps before the monsoon season. Field directors of the reserve should earmark adequate funds for preventing and treating the disease. Health services should be improved, like sufficient availability of mosquito nets. In March 2010, we had distributed about 120 such nets to the staff. By the year-end, only three malaria cases were reported.

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