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More hands to save rhinos

- Govt gives security boost to Kaziranga anti-poaching drive

Jorhat, Feb. 21: Dispur has added more teeth to the security at Kaziranga National Park in view of the recent spurt in rhino poaching.

Of the nine rhinos that fell to poachers’ bullets this year, seven were from Kaziranga — the last being killed on the night of February 17.

Park director N.K. Vasu told The Telegraph today that the government had sanctioned deployment of 300 Assam Forest Protection Force personnel in the park. He said 140 of them would be joining duty this evening and would be out on the field, adding that the remaining 160 would be arriving for duty within the next few days. The personnel will be armed with SLRs and .303 rifles.

“Operations against poachers will definitely get a boost and we will soon carry out a massive drive on the Brahmaputa saporis on the north bank in coordination with Sonitpur police,” Vasu said.

The park already has 220 Assam Forest Protection Force personnel, most of them deployed by the government after the floods last year. Over 900 men currently guard the ver 900 square km park. This includes the six additions and two reserve forests — Panbari and Kukurakata — apart from the 429.93 square km core area.

The security personnel comprise home guards, forest guards, casual workers and park officers, among others. They are armed with double-barrel guns, .303 and .315 bore rifles and SLRs. The securitymen patrol the forest areas on foot, vehicles, elephants, boats and one small ship. The park has four speedboats, over 30 country boats, around 50 elephants and more than 50 vehicles. There are 153 camps spread across the park.

The director said over five new speedboats would be procured soon with central funds of Rs 1 crore sanctioned after being promised by Union forest and environment minister Jayanthi Natarajan in October last year. Vasu said the top authorities were also randomly reviewing the park’s security apparatus to tackle poaching.

He said patrolling had been intensified across the park and the teams were also keeping an eye on the Brahmaputra saporis and the north bank where stray rhinos are vulnerable to poachers.

Vasu said the police and forest personnel from adjoining districts, including the Karbi Anglong Autonomous Council area, were providing assistance to the park staff in its drive against poachers.