Guwahati, Feb. 1: “Catch them young” is the new mantra being adopted by the authorities of Kaziranga National Park to save the endangered rhino.
Nearly 50 schoolchildren from 17 villages located on the fringe areas of the park are being imparted training on conservation at the Bagori range from today.
The three-day programme includes trekking inside the park, interaction with experts and documentary on wildlife conservation. The students will stay inside the park during these three days.
“Without the help of the villagers, it is almost impossible to protect the rhinos from poachers in the 430 square km national park. These children are the future villagers and we want to include them in conservation efforts from now,” a park official said.
The students were taken on a safari inside the park today for a feel of Kaziranga and to make them aware of the importance of protecting such a beautiful place full of wildlife.
“We are trying to imbibe in them that this pristine beauty belongs to them and it is their duty to protect this forest and its denizens,” the official said.
Not only the park authorities, all the NGOs working in the national park are involved in this innovative project.
A member of an NGO said the villagers had always played a big role in conservation efforts at Kaziranga. “Without the help of the villagers, the task would have been much more difficult,” he said.
The villagers not only provide information to the forest staff when a rhino strays out of the park but also giveshelter to animals during the floods every monsoon.
Of course, there are allegations that a few villagers help poachers for money. “Without the help of the villagers, it is almost impossible for the poachers to enter the park and kill a rhino,” another forest official said.
However, there are also instances of poachers being apprehended on the basis of information provided by villagers, he added.
Kaziranga, which has a rhino population of over 2,000, has already witnessed the killing of two rhinos by poachers this year. Both these rhinos had strayed out of the park. Last year, 14 rhinos fell to poachers’ bullets.