Guwahati, Sept. 30: Rattled by the slaughter of six rhinos in a week, Dispur has decided to constitute a state wildlife crime control bureau to protect the state’s fauna.
Chief minister Tarun Gogoi made the announcement today while expressing concern over the recent spate of rhino poaching in and around Kaziranga National Park. He said the proposed bureau would track criminals, manage databases, carry out thorough investigation and break the network of poachers.
The government took the decision after drawing flak from various quarters over its failure to curb poaching of rhinos in the state. The state bureau is likely to be constituted on the lines of the Wildlife Crime Control Bureau, which was formed by the Centre on June 6, 2007, by amending the Wildlife (Protection) Act, 1972.
He said the number of anti-poaching camps in Karbi Anglong district would also be increased to prevent killing of Kaziranga rhinos that strayed into the district during floods. “I will take up the issue (of setting up of the camps) with Karbi Anglong Autonomous Council as Karbi Anglong is a Sixth Schedule area.”
The chief minister also stressed the involvement local people in wildlife conservation and mooted constitution of animal defence parties on the lines of village defence parties.
Slamming the Opposition for criticising his government over the incidents of rhino poaching, he said Assam was among the best performing states in the country in wildlife conservation and the number of rhinos had increased in Kaziranga during his tenure. “The number of rhinos has increased from 1,080 in 1984 to 2,201 in 2001.”
Gogoi, however, was quick to add, “I am not trying to justify the recent killings of rhinos at Kaziranga. We have taken it very seriously. What I am saying is that nobody should play politics on this issue.”
The chief minister said the state government would publish a white paper on steps taken by it for protection of animals and those taken by erstwhile governments.
He said the increase in number of rhinos in Kaziranga had, in fact, become a problem, with the animals straying out of the protected area to adjoining forests in Karbi Anglong district, where poachers and militants attacked them for their horns.
Sources said one way of tackling the poaching menace during the floods was to deploy adequate security forces like the CRPF and army in the Karbi Anglong hills, to which the animals head in search of higher ground. “There is need for heavier deployment of security forces between April and October when floods occur and the animals of the park start moving to Karbi Anglong,” a source said.
According to him, in Karbi Anglong, the weapon to guard ratio was 1:2, which was unfavourable in an encounter situation. “Besides, we have weapons like the .303 and .315 rifles which have to be cocked for every shot, by which time the poachers, who are armed with automatic weapons, can fire several bursts,” he said.
The source said all poachers, however, did not have sophisticated weapons. “We have found empty cases and live cartridges of SLRs and AK-series rifles as also those of .303. This shows that even militants could be involved apart from the traditional poachers whose signature is the 303 rifle,” he said.
Asked about a possible remedy, he said local youths should be provided livelihood opportunities to keep them from being lured by poaching gangs. “We must be able to ensure another generation of poachers does not come up while dealing with those already into the trade.”
In another development, a rhino carcass was found in a water body near the Haladhibari forest guard camp under Kohora range of the Kaziranga National Park this evening.
Kohora range officer L.C. Gogoi said the carcass was that of a female rhino that had died naturally.
He said park staff removed the horn of the animal and took it to the range office.