drug problem for rhinos


Drug hiccup in rhino translocation

- South Africa fails to supply tranquiliser



Guwahati, March 12: The second phase of the ambitious rhino translocation programme has hit a roadblock with a South African company expressing its inability to supply ethorphine, an immobilising drug, to the Assam forest department.

The Wildlife Pharmaceuticals Pty Ltd of South Africa could not supply the drug because the Central Bureau of Narcotics had not placed an indent for it with the International Narcotics Control Board (INCB).

Informing the forest department of this on March 1, the South African firm asked the authorities to apply for ethorphine hydrochloride soon as it could still use its current import permit that expires on May 9.

The rules for supplying narcotic drugs or psychotropic substances to other countries stipulate that the importing country has to inform the INCB of its requirement, including the quantity of the drug it wants to import. Laying down the procedures of the INBC, the letter from the company also stated that once the concerned authority has applied, the board decides on the matter.

“This is disappointing news for us,” chief wildlife warden Suresh Chand told this correspondent.

“We have written to the Central Bureau of Narcotics to place an indent with the INCB. The time is important as the permit expires on May 9,” a forest department official said.

Time is already running out for the next phase of rhino translocation as the process becomes very difficult once summer sets in. Funding agencies are anxious to see that the next round of rhino translocation gets started quickly.

The official said the department was happy when it acquired the import licence but never knew that such procedural hiccups could come up.

For the first phase of the translocation in 2008, the department had procured the drug from Singapore with the help of an international agency as the programme had to be started quickly.

“We at least know now what the rules are and will act accordingly in the future,” the official said.

The INCB is an independent and quasi-judicial monitoring body for the implementation of the United Nations international drug control conventions. Its endeavour, in co-operation with governments, is to ensure that adequate supplies of drugs are available for medical and scientific uses and that these do not get diverted from licit to illicit channels.

The principal aim of the rhino translocation programme is to attain a population of 3,000 wild rhinos in Assam and to populate the potential rhino habitat areas of Manas, Dibru-Saikhowa and Laokhowa-Bura Chapori wildlife sanctuaries through translocation from Kaziranga and Pobitora.

The African and Asian rhino specialist groups of the International Union for Conservation of Nature Species Survival Commission (IUCN/SSC) have already informed the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora that after the first two rhinos were moved to Manas under the project in 2008, progress has virtually come to a halt as the immobilising drug could not be procured.

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