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Kaziranga calls for help

Guwahati, Dec. 17: After losing two rhinos in three days to poachers, the Kaziranga National Park has decided to strike at the root of the crime — the wildlife smuggling racket.

Beleaguered park authorities today sent an SOS to TRAFFIC, an international wildlife trade monitoring network, to set up an office in the Northeast to help it stop rhino poaching in the park.

Yesterday’s poaching took the toll of rhinos killed this year to 21.

“The state wildlife crime bureau is almost defunct and without a proper intelligence network, we are totally helpless,” a senior park official admitted today.

The horns of the rhinos killed in Kaziranga find their way to Hong Kong via Dimapur and the Manipur border and also through Nepal, he said.

“It will be a never-ending fight against the poachers. They will continue to hunt down the rhinos until the people to whom the poachers deliver the booty are caught and until an organisation with international connections is involved with us,” the official said.

The head of TRAFFIC India, Samir Sinha, said from New Delhi that his organisation was concerned about the recent spurt in rhino poaching at Kaziranga and would soon dispatch a team to the national park for an on-the-spot study.

TRAFFIC plans to train forest guards of Manas National Park in January, since the reallocation of rhinos at Manas will begin by then.

“We were gearing up for Manas but now we have to concentrate more on Kaziranga,” Sinha said.

TRAFFIC International works to ensure that trade in wild plants and animals is not a threat to conservation.

Though its headquarters is in Cambridge, UK, the organisation also has offices in Africa, Asia, the Americas, Europe and Oceania. In India, the organisation has its office in New Delhi.

Partha Sarathi Das, in-charge of the state wildlife crime bureau, while welcoming TRAFFIC to work in Kaziranga, said the state bureau has far too many constraints for it to able to function properly. “We have only one vehicle and we have to fill fuel with our own money. A crime bureau cannot survive like this,” he said.

Unless informers are paid well, it is difficult to extract information regarding wildlife crime. “But where is the money?” he asked.

The official said the bureau has received information about a person based at Dimapur who deals in rhino horns. “He has connections in Hong Kong and other Southeast Asian countries but we cannot pin him down with our limited resources,” he said.

The park authorities are now concerned about two rhinos which have strayed into Bhokte chapori on the bank of the Brahmaputra.

“Our guards are constantly keeping an eye on these two rhinos and are trying to chase them back to the park. They could be easy targets of poachers,” the park official said.

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