Poaching takes toll on Rhinoland

FP

The involvement of armed groups came to light last year following the arrest of Lindok Rongpi of the Kuki National Liberation Front, a group based in Karbi Anglong district, which borders the national park. Rongpi later confessed before a magistrate that he had himself killed six rhinos in and around Kaziranga during 2012.

Last year, the government created the elite Assam Forest Protection Force, with automatic weapons such as self-loading rifles to match the firepower of the poachers. Also, over 200 additional guards were deployed in Kaziranga following a sudden spurt in poaching. Now the authorities plan to upgrade the four forest ranges comprising Kaziranga by placing them into four divisions, each to be headed by a divisional forest officer. "This way we will not only have better control over the situation, but have more manpower too," Hussain said.

The government recently also constituted a three-member committee headed by the principal secretary (forest & environment) to suggest measures against poaching. "Though we initially gave the committee a three-month deadline, yesterday we asked it to file its report as early as possible," the minister said.

Two weeks ago, Chief Minister Tarun Gogoi announced he had requested the Centre to institute a CBI investigation into the increasing incidents of rhino poaching. Groups working on wildlife conservation are not impressed. "We have been hearing of such CBI probes for several years now," said Bibhab Kumar Talukdar of Aaranyak, chair of the IUCN-SSC Asian Rhino Specialist Group, and Asian rhino coordinator for the International Rhino Foundation.

2013 so far

January 11: Rhino carcass recovered from sandbar of Brahmaputra in Morigaon. It had strayed out of Orang National Park

January 11: Kaziranga rhino's carcass found in similar circumstances from sandbar in Sonitpur

January 14: Carcass found inside Manas National Park. Horn missing

... contd.

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