Tuesday, July 05, 2022

Assam govt revisits strategies to protect Kaziranga National Park from poachers, floods

PUNJABNEWSLINE | May 27, 2021 07:08 PM

GUWAHATI: The Assam government has taken determined and ambitious decisions and plans to curb poaching of rhinos and protect all animals in the UNESCO world heritage site Kaziranga National Park and Tiger Reserve (KNP & TR), which also faces the brunt of the annual floods.

Assam Chief Minister Himanta Biswa Sarma while holding a review meeting on Thursday, has decided to form a Special Task Force headed by a Special Director General of Police to prevent the poaching and smuggling of rhino horns.

After the meeting, Health and Family Welfare Minister Keshab Mahanta said that an Additional Superintendent of Police and a Deputy Superintendent of Police would also be added to the existing forces which are guarding the world heritage site.

Mahanta, spokesman of the Assam government, said that it was also decided to procure at least 10 satellite phones and more sophisticated rifles for the protection of the rhinos and all other wild animals. "A long term plan would also be undertaken for all round protection and development of KNP & TR and adjoining areas," the minister said.

Smugglers and poachers are poaching rhinos in KNP & TR and other national parks in Assam and selling their horns in international markets.

After the government and the forest authorities took a series of steps including increasing the numbers of trained security personnel, the poaching activities drastically reduced over the years.

Three rhino poachers and smugglers of rhino horns were arrested by the Assam police earlier this month from Karbi Anglong district and recovered some sophisticated arms and ammunition from their possession.

Mahanta said that the Chief Minister has strongly asked the officials and all concerned to protect the animals from the impending floods during June to September.

Agriculture Minister Atul Bora, Forest Minister Parimal Suklabaidya, Finance Minister Ajanta Neog, Health Minister Keshab Mahanta, Deputy Speaker of Assam Assembly Numal Momin among others, were present in the review meeting.

Like previous years, the floods in Assam badly hit the KNP & TR between June and September last year, with 18 rhinos and 135 other wild animals dying due to the deluge.

According to the Director of the KNP & TR, Karmashree P. Sivakumar, 172 wild animals were rescued from the flood waters last year.In 2019, 263 animals, including many endangered rhinos, were killed in the floods while 169 animals were rescued.

"Maximum efforts are being made, including construction of highland, to take care of the animals in the national park during the floods and other calamities," Sivakumar said.

Despite the Covid-19 pandemic and the ensuing economic fallout coupled with the consequent restrictions since October last year over two lakh tourists, including 570 foreigners visited the KNP & TR, considered as one of the best conserved wildlife reserves in India.

The KNP & TR, extending across Assam's Golaghat, Nagaon, Sonitpur, Biswanath and Karbi Anglong districts along the Arunachal Pradesh border, is home to more than 2,400 one-horned Indian rhinos, approximately two third of the total world population.

Set up in 1908, the KNP & TR, one of India's seven UNESCO world heritage sites in the natural and environment category since 1985.

Besides rhinos, the KNP & TR has 121 tigers, 1,089 elephants and huge numbers of Asiatic buffalo, swamp deer, wild boar, hog deer, porcupine and other endangered animals and snakes.With an estimated rhinoceros population of 2,640, Assam has the largest number of Indian one-horned rhinos in the world.

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