Rhinos of Dudhwa National Park

Designing a sustainable rhino monitoring system for rangers and patrol staff at Dudhwa

Dudhwa National Park is home to some of India’s richest flora and fauna, including rhinos, tigers and elephants. The park is located near the Indo-Nepal border, in the state of Uttar Pradesh. World Wildlife Fund (WWF-India) works in partnership with the state forest department and park rangers to achieve conservation goals. One of the key activities that forms baseline of wildlife conservation efforts is, monitoring of flagship species—the one horned Indian rhinoceros, in case of Dudhwa.

The frontline staff patrol the park on a daily basis, and maintain a log of observations in old notebooks and notepads. This adhoc nature of the monitoring process, especially in the absence of photographic evidence to assist with documentation was coming to generate unreliable data sets on rhinos and other wildlife sighted at the park.

I worked with a team of wildlife experts to conceptualize and design an ID-based monitoring system. Essentially designed to help users, the forest patrollers, to correctly identify and record data offline. During field research, we uncovered that the staff also needed support with using GPS devices, to log location information, in the absence of cellular signal in forest interiors. The field guide was designed to build these capacities and also to orient and train new staff members.




Forest ranger Irshad Ali using a
prototype of the field guide to document monitoring data on the field.
We developed an initial prototype of what ID-based monitoring could look like in Hindi, the native language of the field staff. Testing it on ground helped us develop insights into aspects that needed improvement from both content and design perspective. We also worked closely with the rangers to co-create the content on individual rhinos, since they knew them better than any of us on the strategy team. WWF-India published both English and Hindi editions of the field guide.

The field guide was produced using a hard coptic bound method, so every page would open out flat, to facilitate data entry by hand, when rangers patrol on elephant backs in the thick of the jungle. Data gathered during the first year using this monitoring system served as a reliable baseline for conservation efforts in the area. This system and the field guide design also scaled up for implementation at Manas National Park, home to a substantial population of Indian rhinos.


English edition of the field guide.

Chhavi Jain 2020