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Dispur suspends park officials

Guwahati/Jorhat, Jan. 31: The spate of rhino poaching in the state has had widespread ramifications with Dispur taking stern action against seven forest personnel and putting on hold the translocation of rhinos to Manas National Park.

The developments came as another rhino carcass was found outside the park in Golaghat district late this afternoon. The rhino is, however, believed to have died of natural causes, as its horn was found intact.

The government today suspended five forest personnel at Kaziranga National Park and issued showcause notices to two range officers.

Dibyadhar Gogoi, divisional forest officer of eastern Assam wildlife division and Kaziranga National Park, told The Telegraph that he had issued suspension orders to five park employees for “their negligence and ineffectiveness” in discharging their duty that had led to the killing of two rhinos by poachers on two consecutive days earlier this week.

The beat officer of the park’s Burapahar range, Pranab Jyoti Dutta, the in-charge of Harali camp under the range, Gopal Newar, and three homeguards of Hatidandi camp of Bagori range have been suspended with immediate effect.

Gogoi said he has sought explanations from Burapahar range officer Ikramul Mujid and Bagori range officer Kushal Deka, as the slain rhinos belonged to these two ranges.

Kaziranga director N.K. Vasu said the male rhino carcass found today had been recovered from Bhakta sapori under Numaligarh beat of Golaghat forest range. He said it seemed to be a case of natural death as the animal’s horn was intact. He said the carcass could be of the rhino that had strayed out of the park on Monday and had moved towards Majuli in Jorhat division.

The translocation of rhinos from Kaziranga and Pobitora wildlife sanctuary to Manas was put on hold yesterday with the Rhino Task Force deciding to carry out a fresh security assessment before the park is considered fit to get a new batch of the animals.

The decision was taken after WWF, a principal partner in the Indian Rhino Vision, recently said it would be difficult to meet targets unless the authorities pay full attention to the security of rhinos. Three translocated rhinos in the park have fallen prey to poachers since 2011.

The task force meeting was attended by senior officials from state forest department, field directors of Manas and Kaziranga, divisional forest officers concerned and representatives of NGOs involved in the translocation exercise.

They discussed in detail the security scenario in Manas and Kaziranga, covering all aspects of threats and challenges in the present context. The problem arising out of straying of rhinos outside the park was also discussed.

“A new team will be constituted by the forest department which will then start surveying the area and find out whether the necessary infrastructure is in place or not,” a source said.


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