| The poachers after their arrest on Wednesday night. Picture by UB Photos |
Jorhat, Sept. 26: An attempt by poachers to kill rhinos was foiled by Kaziranga National Park authorities with the help of local residents last night.
A subsequent operation by the forest department led to the arrest of six poachers, identified as Dwipen Pegu, Apai Pegu, Paresh Pegu, Bhabesh Doley, Biswa Pegu and Ramrajya Kutum. One poacher is absconding.
While Ramrajya hails from Hatikhuli Borbeel near the national park, the four others hail from Gohpur in Sonitpur district. Parts of a .303 rifle were seized from them.
“Poachers generally carry rifles in small parts after dismantling it to avoid detection by security forces and forest guards. They reassemble the parts once they enter the park. This group of poachers was about to enter the park,” park director N.K. Vasu told The Telegraph.
He said residents informed the forest department when they noticed suspicious movement of three persons — Dwipen, Apai and Ramrajya — on National Highway 37 last evening.
“We apprehended the three and recovered a bag containing the bolt of a .303 rifle, a magazine and a silencer. On interrogation they revealed their plan to kill rhinos. They also said there were four other members in the group who were supposed to join them,” another park official said.
The three apprehended poachers were made to contact their accomplices over phone and directed to come to a particular location. “We had to use an interpreter speaking in Mising to ensure that the arrested poachers were conveying the right message,” the official added. Subsequently, the other three poachers — Paresh, Bhabesh and Biswa — arrived in a bus from Gohpur late at night and got down at the specified location on the national highway near the park where the forest guards were lying in wait for them. All three were arrested.
The house of another gang member, Badan Pegu, who is also from Hatikhuli Borbeel, was raided immediately after the first three arrested poachers were interrogated. But he got wind of the developments and managed to escape.
“It is Badan who is in possession of the other parts of the .303 rifle. He may have got the message about his colleagues getting caught and has fled. A search is on to apprehend him,” the official said.
An award of Rs 15,000 has been announced leading to the arrest of Badan.
He said at least four of the arrested poachers were involved in killing rhinos at the national park. “They admitted to have killed a few rhinos at the 6th addition of the national park earlier,” he added.
He said a tip-off from the local residents had made it possible to foil the attempt and arrest the poachers.
“We have built a network of informers near the park area. They have also played a major role in the operation. The people are also helping us in our operation to apprehend the poacher who has fled,” he said.
The park, a World Heritage Site considered to be the abode of one-horned rhinos, has witnessed the killing of 23 animals this year.