The Telegraph
Wednesday , February 29 , 2012
Since 1st March, 1999

Jumbos at rhinos’ service

- Forest division to employ kunkis to chase strays to Kaziranga

Jorhat, Feb. 28: A grand procession of trained elephants will trail a rhino family in Jorhat all for the noble cause of herding the wayward trio back to the safety of Kaziranga National Park.

The forest department has hit upon the plan to use kunkis (trained elephants) to chase the animals, which had strayed out of the national park three months ago and had been moving along the Brahmaputra under Jorhat forest division.

Forest department sources said the rhinos that were constantly on the move in swampy areas and through chaporis (sandbars) were vulnerable to the threat from poachers, as the animals were easy targets outside the park.

Sources said to provide continuous protection to wild animals, which the department had been doing since December last year, was becoming “very difficult” because of the rough terrain.

Two teams armed with .315 rifles and double-barrelled guns, firecrackers and searchlights have been following the rhino family.

One group on motor bikes has been camping at different places near the current location of the animals.

The other group is moving on a vehicle on the riverbank, keeping a watch on the animals to prevent them from coming too close to the villages.

Divisional forest officer N.K. Malakar (Jorhat) told The Telegraph that the department has prepared a plan to chase away the rhinos through the same route of chaporis through which the animals had come out from Kaziranga.

Malakar said since the past three months, almost 15 people had been following the animals round the clock, but it would not be feasible for a longer period.

Most of the time, the rhinos were moving in inaccessible areas, making them vulnerable to poachers.

Jorhat forest range officer Pankaj Kalita said according to the plan, at least three kunkis from Kaziranga and a team from the park will be needed to push the animals back to the park.

The range officer said nearly six staff from Kaziranga, with experience of dealing with rhinos, will be guide the animals.

The route is nearly 70km.

At present, the rhinos are in the Neemati area near the Brahmaputra on the northeastern outskirts here.

“We think the whole operation is going to take two days if things go according to the plan as we have to ensure that the animals do not stray into human settlements,” the officer said.

He said the drive could be launched by early next week once the staff and elephants arrive from Kaziranga.

In January, two persons were critically injured when they suddenly had come face to face with the rhinos.

The duo, Prabin Das, 35, and Babul Das, 26, of Na-Pamua village here, were returning after grazing their cattle in the morning, had to remain in hospital for a week.

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