Wildlife management hits a low in Assam in 2012

Tiger

Assam, famed for its national parks and wildlife sanctuaries, faced one of its worst years in wildlife management as it lost an estimated 800 animals, including one-horned rhinos, during 2012.

Among the positives in the wildlife sector was a healthy population of Royal Bengal Tiger in Kaziranga National Park with 114 animals captured by the camera trapping method.

Another major achievement was the successful shifting of 18 rhinos to Manas National Park, including one which strayed out of the Park, along with others from Kaziranga and Pobitora Wildlife Sanctuary in April.

Kaziranga, home to the famous rhinos, bore the brunt of both nature and poachers with more than 670 animals left dead due to flood fury and poachers.

Seventy rhinos died in the Park -- 25 killed by poachers, 22 dying due to natural causes and 23 drowned in floods.

The Park, which boasts of a 2,290 strong rhino population as per the census conducted this year, was in the headlines as poachers continued to kill the pachyderms with impunity.

The scourge of annual floods, poaching threat by both illegal Bangladeshi migrants and militants and lack of adequate staff and equipment with forest department threatened the existence of the rhinos and raised the hackles of environmental conservationists and political parties.

Stung by criticism on rhino killings, Chief Minister Tarun Gogoi announced setting up of a State Wildlife Crime Bureau to deal with poaching, smuggling of animal products and related issues and also recommended a CBI inquiry into the killings.

The forest department also announced the setting up of 152 anti-poaching camps and providing sophisticated weapons, AK-series rifles, to the Assam Forest Protection Force personnel.

In their crackdown against poachers, security forces killed five and arrested 60 from different parts of the state during the year.

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