Thailand’s New Forest Ranger Unit to Step up Efforts to Combat ‘Bloodwood’ Poachers

Thailand’s New Forest Ranger Unit to Step up Efforts to Combat ‘Bloodwood’ Poachers

Bangkok June 26, 2015 - A skilled, mobile, rapid response unit of rangers has been set up in response to the rampant poaching of Siamese rosewood (‘bloodwood’) in Thailand’s Eastern Forest Complex. A joint project by the Department of National Parks, Wildlife and Plant Conservation (DNP) and Freeland, the new unit will step upprotection efforts while increasing security for the rangers involved.

From June 9 to 23, 2015, 25 specially selected rangers, representing all five protected areas in the Dong Phayayen-Khao Yai UNESCO World Heritage site, were put through a rigorous, advanced training course. The course was designed to prepare them for a new pro-active approach to counter-poaching operations.

The new unit, named ‘Hasadin’, which means elephant in Sanskrit, has the mandate to operate throughout the entire forest complex, marking a new step forward in collaboration between the parks. The project will also increase the department’s ability to respond to urgent issues quickly and effectively.

Recently, illegal logging of rosewood has escalated, corresponding with deteriorating security for rangers conducting patrols. Organized criminal gangs are financing and equipping increasingly well-armed and violent poaching groups, often using deadly force to evade capture. Dozens of rangers have been killed protecting Thailand’s forests in recent years.

To ensure rangers are able to hold their ground and counter this increasing threat, the rangers of the new unit were trained in better tactics, strategies and ways to apprehend poachers. Another key topic of the course was instruction methodologies, providing the new elite team with the skills required to train their counterparts, thereby increasing the reach of the training course in the future.

“These natural resources are the treasures of our nation and I am proud to protect our forests,” says Rachane Ruenkla, a Hasadin training course participant. “However, on several patrols, we encounter poachers but are at a disadvantage in terms of number of people and weapons which put our lives at risk when the shooting begins… This training course is a great way to empower and increase unity across the parks, and to work more efficiently, safely and with higher success rates. I am proud to be part of Hasadin.”

Freeland, a Bangkok-based counter-trafficking organization, has been helping Thailand’s DNP fight the growing problem of wildlife crime in the complex, recognizing that it not only threatens the forests and wildlife, but also destroys the eco-systems which supply essential services such as the maintenance of critical watersheds. If allowed to continue, this systematic degradation of ecosystems may have serious water and food security implications for the millions of people outside the protected area.

Says Thanaroj Photisaro (Protected Area Regional Office 1 Director, Prachinburi): “We recognize that the issue of rosewood poaching is becoming a dangerous threat, therefore stopping it is now a priority. This new unit is a timely and very much needed solution to this problem. With the support from Freeland, I am confident that the combined expertise and efforts of the organizations will lead to success in protecting this invaluable world heritage site.”

The new elite Hasadin team is now the second rapid response ranger team to have been trained by Freeland in conjunction with the DNP. In late 2013, Thailand’s DNP created the ‘King of Tigers’, a national rapid response ranger team that has had many successes including the seizure of millions of dollars’ worth of contraband.

The training course for the Hasadin team was conducted by the DNP and Freeland with financial support from the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and the David Shepherd Wildlife Foundation.