Thursday, December 09, 2021

Poll shadow on rhino protection in Assam

By EMN Updated: Mar 23, 2014 10:22 pm


[dropcap]W[/dropcap]ith electioneering for the Lok Sabha election gaining momentum in Assam, wildlife crime experts have warned of poachers stepping up killing of rhinos in the state’s protected areas. The experts’ concern stemmed from the fact that hunters might take advantage of the poll atmosphere as security forces, civil administration and other enforcement agencies are busy to ensure smooth conduct of polling.
They added that the state, especially Kaziranga National Park, is already experiencing a spurt in rhino poaching from the beginning of this year.“Since 2012, there has been a rise in rhino poaching in the state, with Kaziranga bearing the brunt. If poaching could rise even in non-election years, our worry definitely increases when the poll is round the corner. There is every possibility that poachers might take advantage of the poll atmosphere when the state machinery remains busy with containing law and order situation and polling duty,” said a wildlife crime expert who did not want to be quoted.
The back to back poaching of two rhinos on Wednesday and Thursday in Kaziranga, a World Heritage site about 250 km from here, brought to the fore the seriousness of the situation. The state has lost 11 rhinos from January this year – 10 in Kaziranga alone and one at Manas national park. Last year, 40 rhinos were poached in the state, with the toll in Kaziranga reaching 35. Kaziranga has 2000-odd rhinos.
Principal chief conservation of forests (wildlife) R P Agarwala underscored the need for staying extra vigilant against poachers in the prevailing poll atmosphere.
“Poaching pressure is always there in rhino habitats because of the high price of the horns in grey markets. Though wildlife staff are exempted from poll duty, the police force and the civil administration, which form an integral part of anti-poaching drives, will be engaged in election. So, definitely the election time calls for stepping up our vigilance and anti-poaching patrolling,” Agarwala said.
The spurt in poaching in Kaziranga for the last three years has also triggered angry protests by various organizations, including student bodies. Also, many student leaders and conservationists were asking political parties to make poaching a serious issue in the polls. President of Asom Jatiyatabadi Yuva Chatra Parishad (AJYCP) Manoj Baruah blamed forest minister Rockybul Hussain for failing to curb poaching “menace” in the state despite several assurances in the past. “It is very deplorable that two rhinos were killed back to back, yet Hussain is busy electioneering. He (Hussain) should have taken his time out of electioneering and sit with park officials to curb poaching. Assam is known worldwide for its one-horned rhinos. We cannot allow our rhinos to be poached in this way, and the government failing to stop it,” said Barua.
Wildlife crime experts have also asked the enforcement agencies to stay alert to the possibility of money from smuggling of rhino horns going into funding politicians.

By EMN Updated: Mar 23, 2014 10:22:51 pm