Assam govt to launch crackdown against poaching network

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Guwahati, Jan 22 (UNI) The Assam government today vowed to launch a crackdown against the poaching network around Kaziranga National Park(KNP) following the state-wide outrage over gouging out of a horn from an adult rhino by poachers at the park.

Forest Minister Rockeybull Hussein called an urgent meeting of forest officials and demanded accountability for the rampant poaching of rhinos inside the KNP, supposed to be the best sanctuary in the world.

PCCF (Wildlife) Mohan Chandra Malakar, while admitting the lapses, said a single reason could not be given for the failure of the wildlife officials.

However, he mentioned high growth in the population of the rhinos, lack of more sophisticated protective network as well as technologically advanced equipment being used by the poachers as the main reasons.

Last year, the KNP had lost 21 rhinos, while this year, during the past 22 days, four rhinos were killed by the poachers, trigerring widespread outrage and shock among the people.

The horrific incident of gouging out of horns from an injured rhino took place last Saturday night just outside the Kaziranga National Park near Methoni tea estate manager's bungalow adjacent to National Highway 37.

The full grown rhino was shot and the horn gouged out after she was immobilised by the bullet injury. Her young calf was also killed and its face mutilated in search of the horn, which was not even shaping up.

The mother rhino succumbed to injury yesterday in front of hundreds of onlookers. The Forest authorities, with the help of doctors, tried in vain for more than 24 hours to save her lift but failed.

''This can be stopped only through political will and at this moment it is not happening. Mere statements and phone calls will not solve it. Kaziranga cannot be allowed to lose 25 rhinos in just 13 months to the poachers,'' said environmentalist Bibhab Talukdar of 'Aranyak'.

Mr Rockybul Hussain expressed serious concern saying that the population explosion of the rhinos had become a problem for the park authorities. KNP has 1885 rhinos, which is almost seventy per cent growth since 1991, when there were 1115 rhinos.

The government was now mulling joint command involving both forest and law and order machinery for rhino protection, especially outside the park.

Kaziranga is covered with 430 sq km of land which was originally declared as reserved forest in 1908. According to a 1984 census the national park had 1,080 rhinos. In 1993 it grew to 1165, while there were 1,552 in 1999 and in 2006 the number rose to 1,855.


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