| A rhino killed by poachers at Kaziranga. File picture |
Jorhat, March 6: Forest guards of Kaziranga National Park (KNP) gunned down two poachers early today. The park lost nine rhinos to poachers in the first two months of this year alone.
Four other rhinos were killed in the state: one in Manas National Park, two in Orang National Park and one in Morigaon so far this year.
KNP director N.K. Vasu, told this correspondent that forest guards had engaged in at least three encounters with poachers in recent times, but the culprits had always managed to escape.
“There has been a tremendous pressure from poachers on the national park for some time and our men had engaged in gunbattles with poachers on several occasions. Today’s success, we believe, would help in checking poaching to some extent,” Vasu said.
He said a group of Assam Forest Protection Force personnel and Kaziranga guards came face-to-face with a gang of four poachers near Debeswari forest camp under Agaratoli range of the national park.
“When challenged, the poachers opened fire on the group of forest personnel and in the ensuing gunbattle, two poachers died while two others managed to escape,” Vasu said.
A .303 rifle and an axe were recovered from the duo. The two poachers are yet to be identified. The director said operations were on to apprehend the poachers who managed to escape.
The last two incidents of poaching took place on February 25 and February 28 at the Agaratoli range of the national park.
Apart from deputing more forces at Kaziranga National Park, Dispur had also carried out a major reshuffle of ranger-level officers following the spate of rhino killings.
Forest minister Rakibul Hussain has directed commandants J. Kharsa and Amit Bhuyan of the Assam Forest Protection Force to camp at Biswanath and Bagori respectively to monitor operations against poachers.
He had also cleared a proposal to fill up 111 vacancies of frontline staff at the earliest.
The reshuffle at the national park had seen L. Gogoi, ranger, Kohora, take over as ranger of state zoo in Guwahati from M. Tamuli, who has been shifted to Kohora range of Kaziranga. Salim Ahmed, ranger, Pobitara wildlife sanctuary, has replaced B. Baishya, ranger of Agaratoli range. Baishya moves to Eastern Assam Wildlife Office at Bokakhat. Ashok Kumar Das, ranger, Amchang range, Bonda, has been shifted to Pobitara range while K.K. Deka, ranger, Bagori, has replaced him.
The government has also allotted 300 Assam Forest Protection Force personnel to be deployed at Kaziranga, of which 140 have already joined duty. The personnel are armed with self-loading and .303 rifles. Police have also managed to apprehend several poachers from different parts of the state in the last few months and recovered arms and ammunition.
On Sunday night, two poachers were arrested from Gohpur in Sonitpur district and Rs 3.9 lakh recovered from their possession. The amount, police claimed, was proceeds from the sale of a horn of a rhino which was killed at Agaratoli range recently.