Guwahati, Tuesday, October 23, 2012
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Call to augment frontline forest staff
STAFF Reporter
 GUWAHATI, Oct 22 – The unease of conservation groups are growing over the unprecedented trend of rhino killings in and around Kaziranga.

 Now, expressing serious concerns over the spate of ‘brutal rhino killing in Assam,’ the International Fund for Animal Welfare - Wildlife Trust of India (IFAW-WTI) have urged authorities to take urgent action to prevent further killings. Significantly, IFAW-WTI is among the major fund providers for conservation efforts in Assam.

At least 14 rhinos have been reportedly poached in and around Kaziranga National Park in the past four months alone. Most were killed during the floods that hit the State twice during this period, the organization stated.

Located in the Brahmaputra flood plains, Kaziranga NP stands for successful conservation of rhinos and other mega fauna. With as few as 10 individuals left in early 1900s, Kaziranga now supports more than 2,000 (70 per cent) of the world’s one horned rhinoceros.  However, experts say, the conservation challenge lies in protecting the rhino during the annual floods in the State.

During floods, animals from the low-lying Kaziranga NP move out of the park boundary in search of higher grounds. This has left them particularly vulnerable to poachers who have shown a total disregard to the front line forest staff on duty.

According to the WTI, to provide additional protection during this period, security was enhanced in Kaziranga National Park with deployment of more and better armed frontline staff this year. This includes deploying additional Assam Forest Protection Force personnel, bringing the total to 220 personnel across the NP. This is in addition to the frontline staff and home guards manning the 152 anti-poaching camps in Kaziranga.

Welcoming this initiative, IFAW-WTI stressed on the need to move beyond ‘conservation in isolation.’ Kaziranga is a part of the greater Kaziranga – Karbi Anglong landscape, and must be conserved. Securing Kaziranga is a good step, the NGO stated, but it is equally crucial to launch similar initiatives in neighboring areas, particularly in Karbi Anglong Hills. The frontline staff in these areas must be augmented to provide protection to rhinos in the entire landscape.

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