Rhino death mars euphoria over heritage tag- Low morale of staff, deficient infrastructure & incidents of poaching plague Manas National Park
Guwahati, Oct. 21: The euphoria over Manas National Park getting its heritage tag back a few months ago has proved to be shortlived.
Vacancies at the senior level, low morale of staff because of poaching and ill-equipped main ranges are a few of the woes plaguing the national park.
It does not have a divisional forest officer or an assistant conservator of forests to look after issues at the ground level, leaving the field director to do everything.
“Outstanding universal value got back the heritage tag for Manas. Our duty now is to protect it, otherwise we stand to lose,” a source said.
“Manas, unlike Kaziranga, had suffered badly and was hit by number of factors for many years. We are getting back to action and crossing one hurdle after another,” said A. Swargiari, the field director of Manas National Park.
Sources said barring Bansbari range, which has all the facilities, infrastructure at the other two ranges, Panbari and Bhuyanpara, is still deficient.
At Bhuyanpara, there are only four elephants and communication is in bad shape.
Forest officials at the national park recently found body parts of an animal, suspected to be that of a rhino, near Rupahi camp of Bhuyanpara range.
Samples of the parts were sent to the Forensic Science Laboratory but the reports are still pending. As one rhino out of 11 is still missing, it is certain that the body parts are those of a rhino.
The sighting of the carcass after more than two weeks indicates that there was hardly any patrolling in that area.
A park official said morale of the rangers is low after the discovery. “It is difficult to believe that somebody had killed a rhino despite so much community support,” the official said.
The park officials had picked up a few persons from nearby villages in Bhuyanpara range. However, the villagers protested and even gheraoed the park authorities, leading to their release.
The villagers said they have always been supporting conservation efforts and should not be branded as suspects.
“Complacency had also set in after the park got back the heritage site tag. There was a belief that nothing could go wrong and nobody would kill a rhino,” the official said.
The Manas issue was discussed at the annual board meeting of International Rhino Foundation (IRF) in the US on October 18-19.
The foundation is one of the principal partners of Indian Rhino Vision.
“The meeting discussed the Asia programme as a whole wherein the Manas issue under Indian Rhino Vision 2020 was also discussed. IRF will continue supporting the IRV 2020 and rhino translocation despite the recent poaching,” Bibhab Kumar Talukdar, IRF Asia Co-ordinator, told The Telegraph.
“IRV 2020 is an important collaborative project and should continue,” he added.