Expert com recommends more staff weapons to guard Kaziranga

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Guwahati, Feb 2 (UNI) Assam's famous wildlife sanctuary Kaziranga National Park's (KNP) crying need for more guards and sophisticated weaponary to fight poaching were the highlights of a report submitted today by an expert committee formed to suggest measures to protect the Park.

Addressing a press conference here, Assam Forest Minister Rockybull Hussain said the report would be placed before the Chief Minister today itself as it demands immediate action and involvement of several departments, besides the Forest department.

The committee was formed following the gruesome incident of January 19 last when poachers had cut off the horn of a female rhino in the Park. The rhino had eventually died in medical care and the pictures of the injured rhino had evoked shock and strong condemnation from nature lovers across the globe.

Mr Hussain said, '' The committee not only dealt with this particular incident but also met officials and workers of the KNP to come up with recommendations to check poaching and other illegal activities inside the Park.

Among the primary recommendations of the committee is the formation of a special task force for KNP, with particular focus on rhino, the minister said.

Other recommendations include sophisticated armory for the staff of KNP to match the weapons used by the poachers, new appointments, especially young guards, appointment of local villagers as informers, camps at every two km along the national highway stretch that passes through the Park and development of communication infrastructure.

Mr Hussain pointed that the Park's area had increased to 859 sq km from 430 sq km in 1976 but other facilities had not increased in the adequate proportion, with the government trying to bring in the needed additions at the earliest.

On the success the government has had till now, he said the rhino poaching figure had come down from 27 and 26 respectively in 2005 and 2006 to 13 in 2007.

'' Of course, we can not rest till there is not even a single poaching incident. But results are showing and it needs to be appreciated, especially to boast the morale of the KNP staff who have been guarding the animals putting their own lives to risk,'' he added.

The minister praised the KNP staff for their high level of commitment and sincerity in guarding the Park.

On the immediate steps the department had taken following January 19 incident, Mr Hussain said four home guard sections from neighbouring districts have been deputed in KNP, besides tightening security further.

On the issue of alleged encroachment on the KNP fringes, he said those people were shifted by the previous AGP government when the Park area was expanded to accommodate the growing animal population.

UNI SG KK KLC1745

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