Assam forest deptt calls for Karbi Anglong support
Karbi Anglong council’s help sought
A forest department official on an elephant pulls the carcass of a rhino killed by poachers at Bagori range at Kaziranga National Park on Friday. (AP)
The Assam forest department, which is facing flak over a rise in rhino poaching cases, has initiated steps to get the Karbi Anglong Autonomous District Council “on board” to help save wildlife in Kaziranga National Park.
The CRPF and Assam police also carried out a joint operation in Karbi hills today to track down rhino poachers. Rhinos often stray or cross over during floods from Kaziranga to the foothills of Karbi Anglong, where they fall prey to poachers. Six rhinos of the park have died this week.
“There has to be a joint responsibility in conserving Kaziranga National Park and ensuring safety of rhinos straying over to the foothills of Karbi Anglong district. The issue of cooperation has been taken up with the district council at the highest level, including forest minister Rakibul Hussain. We will provide all support to the forest department of the KAAC to get their cooperation in tackling wildlife issues,” principal chief conservator of forests (wildlife) Suresh Chand told The Telegraph.
Chand has been camping in Kaziranga for the past three days and talking to a cross-section of people, including the administration and police, to arrive at a solution. Sources said without KAAC support, any effort in conservation of Kaziranga wildlife would prove futile.
“We are willing to share the best practices we have gathered with them (KAAC) and there can be temporary deployment of their staff in Kaziranga,” Chand said, adding that police officials had agreed to provide arms training to the council’s forest staff to help them face armed poachers and had asked the state forest department to identify trouble spots in Karbi Anglong so that security could be strengthened.
He also said the National Tiger Conservation Authority was comfortable with the idea of having a tiger reserve in Karbi Anglong.
There are four corridors — Panbari, Haldibari, Kanchanjuri and Amguri — in the Kaziranga-Karbi Anglong belt. During floods, migrating animals use these to cross over to higher ground in Karbi foothills across NH 37. Sources said these corridors were rapidly getting degraded as growing commercial activities were hampering the movement of animals to the hills.
A study by Wildlife Institute of India on “Ecological effects of road through sensitive habitats: Implications for wildlife conservation” states that high traffic volume poses a major barrier and threat to movement of animals between Kaziranga and Karbi hills during floods and effective measures need to be taken to improve the functionality of the corridors.
The WWF has been working since 2005 under its Kaziranga-Karbi Anglong conservation programme to conserve the corridors by involving local residents. It said this was a challenging task as the corridors, lying south of Kaziranga, were densely inhabited and many tourist resorts had sprung up there of late. It said use of land to accommodate growing population and tourism pressure was slowly choking some of the corridors.
As the forest department pondered over ways to check poaching and conserve wildlife in Kaziranga, its officials, along with members of the Centre for Wildlife Rescue and Conservation, managed to dislodge a rhino calf, which refused to budge from under a culvert in the park’s Kohora range. “The rhino calf was at first shot with a stream of water from a fire brigade engine to make it move from the spot but it refused to budge because of the large crowd that had gathered there. The shouting and yelling scared it,” forester Rupak Bhuyan of Kohora range said. It finally came out in the evening and returned to the forest.
However, in Sildubi part of the range, locals killed a wild buffalo when it went on the rampage and allegedly attacked people in the vicinity.
At Gorakati in Bagori range of the park, the carcass of a female rhino, which had died of natural causes, was found floating in the floodwaters with its horn intact. The carcass of an elephant, which had also died a natural death, was found with its tusks intact in the Barbeel camp area in the western division of the range.
Bagori range officer Kushal Deka said a rhino, which had strayed out to Jagadamba area of the range, was chased back to the forest by nearly 50 people of the area.
In the face of growing protests over rhino poaching in Kaziranga, Assam forest minister Rakibul Hussain went on the offensive today, asking All Assam Students’ Union (AASU) why it had not staged protests when rhinos were getting killed in huge numbers between 1986 and 1990 when a “friendly” AGP government was in power in Dispur. About 24 to 48 rhinos are estimated to have been killed during that period. He also asked BJP MP Rajen Gohain to raise the issue in Parliament if he had not done so till now.
Lending its voice to the save wildlife crusade, Aaranyak, an NGO working for wildlife conservation, today said it would hold a daylong sit-in here on Monday to demand the arrest of poachers. It also wants Dispur to ensure accountability within the forest department, which is responsible for the protection of the world heritage site.