| A paddy field in Manas’s Bhuyanpara range, which is facing encroachment threat. Telegraph picture |
Kokrajhar/Guwahati, Oct. 30: An anti-poaching camp was burnt down at Manas National Park today in apparent retaliation to yesterday’s killing of a suspected poacher, who villagers claim was innocent. Timely intervention by security forces stopped the violence from spreading further.
Sources said about 40-45 villagers of Milanpara, to which the deceased youth, Sabi Boro, 24, belonged, and neighbouring villages set the camp in Bhuyanpara range on fire around 10am. No one was, however, injured.
“There was no option but to call in the forces to bring the situation under control as a camp, Panda, was burnt down by miscreants from a nearby village. They were trying to burn down another camp, Betbari, when security forces came in and brought the situation under control,” field director A. Swargiary told The Telegraph. Panda had been repaired last October.
Sources said a five-member group was behind yesterday’s killing of a rhino at Sengmari under Betbari camp in Bhuyanpara range yesterday. One of them was gunned down and the rest escaped with the horn. A .303 bullet was found in the forehead of the rhino and empty cartridge shells were found at the spot.
Villagers said Boro, who was shot dead by forest guards, was not a poacher as claimed by the forest department. However, they could not say why he had gone inside the park.
The range officer of Bhuyanpara range, Adhan Oza, said, “The youth who was shot dead was fully involved as otherwise he would not have come with the group.”
He said all steps were being taken to bring the situation under control, including use of force, but did not rule out more trouble.
In the meantime, constant vigil is being kept on the one-year-old rhino calf whose mother was shot dead yesterday. The female calf hides when she sees forest staff on elephants.
The field staff has been asked to monitor the health and behaviour of the calf, which was the first to be born to a translocated rhino in the park.
The rising encroachment at Bhuyanpara range is a cause for concern and civil society organisations have warned that if strong steps are not taken in time, the situation will spin out of control.
Another range, Panbari, covering 16.3 square km, has also witnessed rampant encroachment with 912 people occupying the area. Though Rs 6.46 crore was sanctioned in 2009-2010 to relocate these people on the fringes of the tiger reserve, nothing has happened till now.
The Centre, through the state forest department, will have to submit by February 1, 2014, an updated report on the state of conservation of the park to the World Heritage Centre at its 38th meeting next year. Sources said after the report is submitted, the WHC will bring up the killing of six rhinos in the park.