Fifth rhino of the year killed,govt announces more security

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Guwahati, Feb 5 (UNI) With the fifth rhino poached this year in Assam today, the government announced a slew of security enhancement measures in the famous Kaziranga National Park (KNP), including increasing staff strength and setting up watch towers.

A male rhino was killed in Central Kohora range at about 0645 hours. It is the third rhino killed in the Park limits this year.

Two others were killed outside KNP.

The poachers escaped with the horn though forest guards had fired on hearing gun shots, KNP director Suren Buragohain said. A massive search operation had been launched to nab the poachers.

Meanwhile, Forest Minister Rockybul Hussain, told reporters here that the department had decided to step up vigilance in the Park immediately.

He said five watch-towers would be set up along the National Highway end that does not fall under KNP, while 25 new camps would be established in the Park area along the NH.

A flying squad would be appointed, while five other rapid action units would also be constituted. Another 100 armed homeguards will be appointed in the KNP soon, Mr Hussain added.

He informed that against the sanctioned 504 posts in the KNP, 437 men were in position adding that only nine posts of foresters and guards were vacant, while the other vacancies were in non-frontline staff category.

The minister, however, emphasised that this staff strength was calculated when the Park area was 430 sq km, but the area has now increased to 859 sq km.

''The Park area will be increased with four new additions that we are working on,'' he said.

As an immediate step, five armed Home Guard sections have been deputed to KNP, while senior Forest department officials are visiting the Park to assess any loophole as the rhino was killed even after tight security and greater awareness among local people.

Referring to a report submitted on Saturday by an expert committee to suggest measures to stop poaching and other illegal activities in KNP, Mr Hussain said, ''The report is being processed and we will initiate steps very soon, based on its recommendations.'' Besides increasing staff strength and sophisticated armory for the KNP staff to match that of the poachers, other recommendations include a special task force, 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.

The minister also took a dig at Opposition Asom United Democratic Front (AUDF) and All Assam Students' Union (AASU) for being vocal against him rather than suggesting concrete measures to check poaching.

He also alleged that his rival powerful factions were involved with the poachers and said, ''the AUDF and AASU are demanding CBI inquiry. I have myself written to the chief minister today for a CBI probe into the poaching activities. If the chief minister asks me, I will also step down as the Forest minister during the time of probe if that can help in any way,'' he added.


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