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Kaziranga alert over poaching bids in Diwali

Jorhat, Nov. 13: Rhino habitats in the state have sounded a red alert during the Diwali celebrations as it is an old tactic by poachers to take advantage of the sound of crackers to shoot rhinos.

“It is difficult to identify the sound of gun shots amidst the cacophony of crackers and poachers have been taking advantage of this situation since a long time so we have been on an alert,” Kaziranga National Park director N.K. Vasu told The Telegraph today.

He said all anti-poaching camps have been put on high alert and patrolling on the Brahmaputra has also been intensified since the past three days as poachers might try to use the river route to enter the park.

Another Kaziranga official said the park authorities were also in touch with the villagers living near the park and have requested them not to burst crackers till late at night.

“We have not banned bursting of crackers but have requested the villagers to avoid bursting crackers so that our job becomes easy,” the official said.

The official said though there has been a major crackdown on gangs of poachers in recent times, there are still several poachers who have been trying to kill rhinos. “The demand for rhino horns has increased in recent times and attempts to kill rhinos will always be there,” he said.

Reports said more than 300 rhinos were killed in South Africa this year following an increase in demand for horns in the Southeast Asian countries.

Kaziranga has also witnessed the death of 18 rhinos this year in the hands of poachers. The park has more than 2,000 rhinos and is considered to be the home of the one-horned rhino having more than 70 per cent of the world’s one-horned rhino population.

Police, with the help of the forest department, has arrested about 40 people, from near the national park and near Karbi Anglong, for their involvement in the rhino horn trade. The arrests include at least five dreaded poachers, who were involved in the recent killings of rhinos.

Assorted weapons have also been recovered from the arrested persons. Not just in Kaziranga but an alert has also been sounded at Orang National Park, known as a miniature Kaziranga, with about 100 rhinos. An official at Orang said forest guards have been alerted and night patrolling has been intensified.

“We are also conducting river patrolling in the past few days,” the official said.

The park has witnessed several poaching attempts during Diwali night earlier. “We have foiled many such attempts but poachers managed to kill a rhino on a Diwali night in 2009. Two poachers were also killed following an encounter with forest guards that Diwali night,” the official said.