Jorhat, Nov. 26: Ten rhino poachers from the villages on the fringes of Kaziranga National Park surrendered today, barely a week after the villagers set a deadline to them to surrender or else their families would be ostracised.
The poachers deposited a 303 rifle, a 9mm pistol and ammunition.
The poachers — their names figure in the forest department’s ‘wanted’ list — will not be arrested but engaged in work related to conservation of the national park.
At a function held at Dhubati Beloguri village on the fringe of Agaratoli range, the poachers pledged to help the forest department protect the animals of the national park.
Nayanjyoti Doley, one of the surrendered poachers, said he had travelled all the way to Manipur to rope in sharp-shooters to kill rhinos at Kaziranga a few months ago.
“We are not used to firing the rifle so we had to engage shooters from either Nagaland or Manipur to kill rhinos,” he said.
Doley and the other poachers said they would do the needful in checking rhino poaching activities at Kaziranga from now on.
“We can easily identify the shooters and we know the connections through which they come to Kaziranga. We will do our best to stop them from coming to Kaziranga,” Kartik Pegu, another poacher, said.
The divisional forest officer of East Assam Wildlife Circle, D.D. Gogoi, said the Kaziranga authorities would engage the poachers in various eco-development projects so that they can earn a living.
The residents of at least three villages located near Kaziranga had set a week’s deadline for the poachers from these villages to surrender and threatened to ostracise their families if they did not do so.
The deadline was extended by another week yesterday after family members of a few poachers sought more time to convince their kin.
This was the first time that the villagers living near Kaziranga have made such a move.
Junai Patgiri, a senior citizen of No. 3 Beloguri village, said it was a very happy moment for the villagers as their “sons” who had taken a wrong path had returned.
“There are a few more misguided youths from our villages and we expect them to return soon,” he said.