Jorhat, Oct. 25: The age-old adage, it takes a thief to catch a thief, may be proved true once again if these 20-odd former poachers manage to curb rhino poaching in and around Kaziranga National Park.
The ex-poachers got together at Dhubawati Bheloguri village near the park’s Agoratoli range today and pledged their support to forest authorities to prevent further killing of rhinos.
A seven-member committee was formed to work out a further course of action. A second meeting will be held on November 4 and a concrete plan will be announced as to how the ex-poachers will be involved in preventing rhino poaching at the national park.
Dhubawati Bheloguri once earned notoriety as a “poachers’ haven” with several villagers involved in rhino poaching at the park.
Sishuram Pegu, one of the ex-poachers, told The Telegraph over phone that they had come forward to help the park authorities and would do the needful to check rhino poaching.
He said though the ex-poachers had come forward to help the park authorities, the latter should work out a rehabilitation package for them. “We should be either enrolled in jobs as forest guards or any other rehabilitation package should be announced for our benefit. Otherwise, it would be difficult for us to survive.”
Kaziranga epitomises successful conservation of rhinos, having seen a rise in their population from only 10-20 in early 1900s to more than 2,000 at present. The park now has 70 per cent of the world’s greater one-horned rhinoceros population.
The conservation challenge, however, lies in protecting the rhinos during the annual floods in the state.
At least 14 rhinos have been reportedly poached in and around the park in the past four months alone. Most were killed during the floods that hit the state twice during this period. During floods, animals from the low-lying Kaziranga plains move out of the park boundary in search of higher ground. This makes them vulnerable to poachers.
While welcoming the ex-poachers’ decision, a Kaziranga official said the former poachers would be of great help to the park authorities as they had connections. “We can utilise their network in our fight against rhino poachers.”
He said the park authorities were in touch with the district administration and the local MLA so that self-employment schemes could be announced for their rehabilitation. “There are several sche-mes under DRDA and tribal development projects which could benefit the ex-poachers.”
He said a self-help group involving the ex-poachers would be formed very soon so that it could apply for various government schemes for self-employment.