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Kaziranga hunters turn hunted

- Another poacher killed as park tightens vigil, Rs 1 lakh for forest guards

Jorhat, June 11: The forest guards of Kaziranga National Park have intensified vigil against poachers by killing three of them and apprehending one within a week.

One poacher was killed in an encounter with forest guards at Arimora in Kohora range of the park last night while two were killed near Difloo camp in Burapahar range last Wednesday. On Monday, the police had apprehended a poacher, Horulora Patgiri, from Agaratoli village near Agaratoli range. The park has five ranges, the other two being Bagori and Northern.

After two poachers were killed last week, the divisional forest officer of Kaziranga National Park, S.K. Seal Sharma, had announced a reward of Rs 1 lakh to the team of five forest guards who shot them.

Giving details of last night’s encounter, Kohora ranger Ranjit Baruah said a group of four or five poachers had fired on a team of forest guards patrolling the area. The guards retaliated, killing one poacher.

“The poachers had crossed the Brahmaputra from the north bank and probably fled the same way under cover of darkness. A .303 rifle, ammunition, an axe, a bottle of hooch, flat rice and a tarpaulin were found in the area,” Baruah said, adding that the poachers had come equipped to wait out till a rhino was killed and had brought the tarpaulin to keep out the rain.

A park official said Kaziranga was facing a two-pronged attack from poachers — one from across the Brahmaputra and the other from well-armed militants roaming the Karbi hills. “There are decidedly two types of poachers, one operating from the north bank side and the other descending from the hills of Karbi Anglong district,” he said.

Burapahar ranger Jinaram Bordoloi said the two poachers killed last week were probably Karbi militants given the sophisticated arms they possessed.

Burapahar has seen the maximum number of rhinos being killed in the park since last year — 12 of the 28 rhinos killed last year and four of the 16 killed this year,

“Wherever the poachers might have come from, there is information that the local people are helping them. Otherwise, the rhinos would not have been pinpointed and made targets so easily nor would the getaway of the poachers have been so easy,” Bordoloi said.

A police official said Patgiri had been arrested based on specific information and on the basis of information provided by him the police would foil other poaching attempts and make more arrests. He, however, refused to divulge what the arrested poacher had confessed.

Assam chief wildlife warden R.P. Agarwalla said the department’s topmost priority was to control poaching for which patrolling has been intensified and intelligence gathering improved.

“We have become proactive,” Agarwalla said, adding that a new wildlife division would soon be set up at Diphu, the headquarters of Karbi Anglong district.

“About 1,200 personnel, including forest guards, boatmen and the newly created Assam Forest Protection Force, guard the park. According to the rhino census carried out in Kaziranga in March last year, there are 2,329 one-horned rhinos in the park,” the police official said.

Kaziranga, a designated Unesco World Heritage Site, has an area of more than 800 square km, which includes a core area of 430 square km and additions in the north bank of the Brahmaputra.

A rhino horn, believed to have aphrodisiac value, is sold in the international market for Rs 1 crore or more, sources said.


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