R Dutta Choudhury
MANAS, Nov 7 – At a time when efforts are being made to regain the old glory of the Manas National Park, poaching has become a major cause of concern and only recently, a skin of a tiger of the Park was recovered in a bordering town in Bhutan.
Talking to The Assam Tribune, the Director of the National Park Anindya Swargowari admitted that the situation in the Park has changed a lot since the 1990s when most of the camps inside the park had to be winded up due to militant activities and now there are more than 70 camps, each manned by four to five Forest Department personnel.
Swargowari said that at one point of time, all the rhinos of the park were killed and later 10 rhinos were translocated from the Kaziranga National Park and eight from Pabitora Wildlife Sanctuary. Now the Park has 27 rhinos. He said that six rhinos were killed by poachers in the National Park since 2011. Though the number if not a big one, it is a matter of concern because the rhino population in Manas is not at large as Kaziranga.
Commenting on the problems faced by the Park authorities to deal with poaching, the Park Director pointed out that the southern boundary of Manas is totally porous and there are a large number of thickly populated villages all along the southern boundary. This is a major problem as the poachers and criminals can take shelter in the villages and sneak into the Park. Though patrolling inside the Park has increased with establishment of a number of camps, the thick forest cover puts the criminals in an advantageous position.
Moreover, easy availability of illegal weapons in the area is a major cause of concern as in recent times, even AK series rifles along with 303 rifles were used by poachers to kill Park animals. Swargowari said that the number of wild boar and deer is increasing and very often the animals venture into the villages and fall prey to the poachers and criminals. It may be mentioned here that there are reports of selling of dear meat in the fringe areas of the National Park.
Swargowari revealed that the possibility of the poachers taking animal body parts to Bhutan also cannot be ruled out and one such incident recently came to light. He said that the skin of one tiger of Manas (MT7M), photographed in the last census, was recovered in a bordering town in Bhutan, which proved that the poachers managed to smuggle out the skin by taking advantage of the porous international border.