GUWAHATI, June 22 - With rhino hunters on the prowl, the Morigaon district Superintendent of Police Swapnil Deka on Thursday mooted setting up of special rhino protection groups comprising villagers in vulnerable and sensitive areas near the famed rhino habitat of Pobitora Wildlife Sanctuary.
He was addressing a well-attended awareness programme against rhino hunting organised by the Morigaon district administration, Pobitora Wildlife Sanctuary authorities and the biodiversity conservation group Aaranyak at Koranibori ME Madrassa near the rhino habitat.
“Villagers near Pobitora Wildlife Sanctuary have been instrumental in preventing killing of a single rhino during the last three years or so, and they should continue to remain co-operative to the police and forest authorities, especially when there has been disturbing inputs of late from the ground about some outside rhino hunters (from Manipur, Nagaland, etc.) in collusion with some local miscreants hatching designs to kill rhinos of Pobitora Sanctuary,” the police official said.
He called upon the villagers to promptly share any information about the presence of suspected elements in the area in order to safeguard the rhinos, which has catapulted Pobitora into the global map, besides opening livelihood options for the local people.
The CEO of Aaranyak, Dr Bibhab Talukdar told the villagers, “We as a community have the most important role to play in protecting the rhinos that have made the Pobitora area famous and provided various sources of livelihood to the people of the area. By protecting the rhino, you are protecting the wetland ecology which sustains you in the area.”
Dr Talukdar lauded the suggestions of the Superintendent of Police for formation of special rhino protection groups among the villagers from vulnerable areas on the fringe of the wildlife sanctuary and promised that Aaranyak would provide essential field gear for these groups in the greater interest of rhino protection.
The Ranger of Pabitora WLS, Mukul Tamuli pointed out that people from 33 revenue villages surrounding the rhino habitat form the backbone of the rhino protection mechanism in the area.
“The villagers have been playing a key role in preventing rhino poaching in Pobitora. However, your cooperation is more vital now as we have noticed that of late miscreants are roaming the area with an intention to kill rhinos,” he said.
Officer-in-Charge of Mayong Police Station Mridul Hazarika said that the onus lay on the villagers of the area to protect rhinos from the poachers on the prowl.
“You have to cooperate with the police and the Forest Department to defeat the designs hatched by some criminals from the area to kill Pobitora rhinos,” the official said.
The 38-sq km Pobitora WLS has a core area of 16 sq km. With 102 precious rhinos thriving in such a small area, Pobitora is toasted as the wildlife habitat with the highest rhino density in the world.