| battleground |
Jorhat, June 10: Forest guards at Orang National Park engaged in a gun battle with poachers and foiled an attempt to kill rhinos at the smallest national park in the state on Sunday night.
Divisional forest officer Sushil Kr Daila told this correspondent over phone that a gang of four poachers entered the national park around 1.30am through the Kacharibheti area.
“We had information about the possible attempt by poachers to kill rhinos, therefore, our men were alert. The guards accosted the group of poachers and engaged in a gun battle,” the forest official said. He said the gang of poachers fled after engaging in the gun battle for about half an hour.
“We recovered a .303 rifle and four rounds of live cartridges from the encounter site,” Daila said.
This is the fourth poaching attempt in the 78.81 square km park this year and forest guards have managed to foil all four. Not a single rhino has fallen prey to poachers till now this year. Last year, poachers killed two rhinos at the national park while one rhino died of natural causes.
According to the census conducted last year, there is a population of 100 rhinos at Orang. The next census is due next year.
The park also has a healthy population of Royal Bengal tigers with the census revealing 24 big cats, including four cubs. Royal Bengal tiger census is currently on at the park with Aranyak, an NGO, engaging in camera-trapping method to ascertain the tiger population in the park, located on the north bank of the Brahmaputra in Darrang and Sonitpur districts.
Daila said forest guards have already identified one of the poachers who tried to enter the park on Sunday night and had raided his residence on the periphery of the national park in the Kacharibheti area. “We have raided his house but he has managed to flee. A hunt is on with the help of local police to apprehend the poachers,” he said.
The forest official said park authorities have set up another anti-poaching camp at Kacharibheti this year to add teeth to the anti-poaching drives. Right now, the park has 40 such camps. He said despite the fact that there has been a shortage of guards at the national park, the forest guards, homeguards and casual workers have been doing a commendable job by making an extra effort to protect the denizens of the national park.
The park has about 200 personnel, including forest guards, homeguards and casual workers.
CPI (ML) activists today took out a rally at Behali under Biswanath sub-division in Sonitpur district to protest against the state forest department’s failure to check rampant poaching of rhinos at Kaziranga National Park.
They also demanded arrest of those involved in the Behali killings.