Protecting rhinos in KNP
'How can the State match the firepower of poachers armed by neighbouring countries?'
By our Staff Reporter
GUWAHATI, Feb 2: The mece of rhino poaching in Kaziranga tiol Park (KNP) has transcended intertiol borders with poachers using sophisticated weapons, even as the market for rhino horns is getting bigger outside. Admitting the failure of the Assam government in tackling this mece, State Forest and Environment Minister Atua Munda has now virtually shifted the onus to the Centre for protecting rhinos in the park.
“Considering the intertiol linkages to the mece, both in the use of sophisticated arms by poachers and the increasing size of the market for rhino horns outside the country, we have requested the Centre to take some tangible steps from its end to tackle the problem. There have been no lapses from our end. But the sophisticated weapons being used by poachers are beyond our capacity to match,” said Munda talking to newsmen in the city on Tuesday, adding, “How can a State match the firepower of some neighbouring countries equipping the poachers? It is a proven fact that poached rhino horns are being sold in the intertiol market.”
Munda further said: “Following a request from the State Forest department, the Centre recently allowed us to use 50 SLRs. Even though New Delhi assured us earlier about funding a 1,200-strong forest battalion for the KNP, it now maintains that it can only afford to fund a 112-strong forest protection force for the tiol park.”
Regarding the delay in reorganising the KNP protection force as promised earlier, Munda explained: “We did initiate a move to remove from the frontline force all forest personnel aged over 50 years. But our move has hit a roadblock with a section of the personnel moving the Supreme Court against it. What we simply wanted was to man the frontline force with young blood.”
The State Forest minister also did not rule out the possibility of poachers getting support and shelter from some local people. “Without such support, poachers wouldn’t have been able to inflict repeated blows to wildlife in the tiol park,” he said, adding, “We have formed local committees, involving the villagers to fight the mece. These committees are getting regularly paid.”
On the recent order from the tiol Green Tribul (NGT) for demolition of all constructions within a radius of 500 metres surrounding the KNP and all motels, hotels and dhabas located within 100 metres on either side of the tiol highway from Jokholabondha to Bokakhat, Munda said, “The KNP director has submitted a comprehensive report to the Tribul. In fact, the Tribul has not issued any direct instructions to the State Forest department. The instructions from the Tribul are meant for the Union Forest and Environment ministry.”
It may be mentioned that poachers have already gunned down three rhinos in the tiol park in the month of January this year.