GUWAHATI, Feb 14 - Kaziranga Wildlife Society (KWS), a nature conservation organization of the North-east, has expressed deep anguish over the serial poaching of rhinos in the Kaziranga National Park.
The Society condemned in strong words the inability of the Forest Department to check rampant poaching of rhinos in their natural and most well-known habitat as well as the State Government’s indifference in effecting a pragmatic policy to protect the State’s wildlife and their habitat.
Addressing the media at the Guwahati Press Club on Saturday, the members of KWS held the Chief Wildlife Warden of the State responsible for the plight of rare species which is also Assam’s State animal.
Since 2012 more than 150 rhinos have fallen prey to poachers’ bullets – a large majority of the fatalities taking place in Kaziranga, once celebrated globally as one the most well-managed national parks.
At the same time, KWS members pointed out, the incidence of unnatural death of elephants, another species protected under Schedule-I of the Wildlife Protection Act, has doubled which is another cause of serious concern.
Compared to the earlier years, incidents of killing of rhinos in Kaziranga had come down after an ‘Intelligence Cell’ was put into place. Conservation NGOs have repeatedly been pointing out intelligence failure in curbing rhino poaching in Kaziranga National Park.
The Cell, constituted vide Govt of Assam notification No. FRW 6/2015/2 dated Dispur the March 17, 2015, was sent to Kaziranga and was taken as a very timely and positive move by the department to thwart the challenges of poaching of the rhinos. This action proved beneficial as there was a lull in poaching activities once the cell started operating.
“The people of the State also heaved a sigh of relief as no poaching was reported during those months, i.e., from May to July. Sadly, the Cell was called back after a few months. The moment the Cell was withdrawn from Kaziranga, the menace of poaching raised its ugly head once again,” KWS members said.
The Intelligence Cell’s report revealed many things, and most surprisingly, it also indicated the involvement of a few forest personnel in poaching activities.
The KWS strongly demand that the State Government reinstate the Intelligence Cell in Kaziranga with immediate effect.
The KWS secretary, Mubina Akhtar maintained that the Chief Minister who is also the Chairman of the State Wildlife Advisory Board had already ordered reinstatement of the Cell but for reasons best known to the department, the order is yet to be implemented.
The KWS also appealed to the Government to conclude all formalities at once in raising a well-equipped rhino protection force.
Criticizing the selection procedure of forest personnel, especially the frontline staff, the Society maintained that the selection procedure should be free from all kinds of political influence for the greater sake of conservation of the State’s wildlife.
The Society also appealed to the Forest Department to introduce a toll-free number as ‘early warning system’ or 'poaching alert' and carry out massive awareness campaigns in fringe areas of sanctuaries and national parks with the help of wildlife NGOs.
The NGO lashed out at all political parties for playing politics even when there was a crisis like indiscriminate poaching of rhinos or clearing of forests in the State, and demanded of each political to give priority to a green agenda in their manifestos.