Kaziranga thinks the "smart" way to shield rhinos

"Smart guards" for Kaziranga

Kaziranga National Park is thinking the “smart” way to take on poachers.

The proposal of having “smart guards and smart communication” has been developed by director of Kaziranga National Park in view of Gauhati High Court’s order to improve protection of rhinos in the World Heritage Site.
The proposal is now under discussion.

“Since Kaziranga National Park is home to the largest number of greater Indian one-horned rhinoceros, the species is constantly under threat from poachers. Owing to vigorous patrolling by the field staff as well as proactive role by the park authorities, poaching is contained to certain extent. However, it is high time that modernisation of the strike force, forest guards and other frontline staff is carried out by upscaling the anti-poaching infrastructure. The home of the rhinoceros can be protected from poachers and the species, along with other endangered wildlife, will continue to thrive and multiply,” the park director, M.K. Yadava, said in an approach paper on Issues and Possible Solutions to protection of one-horned rhinoceros in Kaziranga National Park, which has now been thrown up for discussion.

He said the pressure on Kaziranga National Park is tremendous as the rhinoceros population is very high and the entire boundary porous. The northern side is surrounded by the Brahmaputra and its numerous islands. There is a very large population of traditional fishing communities all along the river, some of whom may be potential field men for the gangs of poachers. The southern side of the park is also full of human habitation, making patrolling very difficult, he said.
Yadava said under the smart guard system in the context of prevailing situation in Kaziranga National Park “S” stands for sustained stamina 24x7x365. “M” means motivated, “A” action-oriented, “R” ready to act. “T” stands for trained and tactically superior, “G” means ‘get down’ to the poachers, “U” undeterred by adverse conditions, “A” always armed (weapon, equipment and kits) “R” right thinking at the right time and “D” implies develop yourself. The smart guard will be well-equipped, well-trained and well-motivated.

“The pilot proposal here would create an elite force of about 50-75 smart guards to begin with. Though there is a large number of equipment (in the thought process), initially it is proposed to start with day-vision binoculars, hand-held GPS sets, range finders, night-vision goggles, hand-held thermal scanners, powerful searchlights including illumination systems, bullet-proof jackets and helmets. To this is added portable battery packs (as the equipment would need power supplies during long hours of ambush and patrolling)” Yadava says.

The director says the introduction of smart guard system would change patrol, ambush and surveillance strategies which would require training and motivation of front line staff. “Six months’ intensive training has been proposed to make the field staff adapt to the new technologies and systems for better performance.”

On the other hand, the Krishak Mukti Sangram Samiti (KMSS) today moved the state forest department demanding that the state government lobby with international agencies to create pressure on those procuring rhino horns supplied by poaching rackets in order to prevent poaching.

The peasants’ body, which has been spearheading a movement against the government on different issues of public interests, today launched a protest against poaching of one-horned rhinos in the state’s forests including Kaziranga National Park.

Nearly 500 members of the KMSS, led by its president and peasant leader Akhil Gogoi, staged a demonstration here alleging that the state government had failed to prevent poaching as 168 rhinos have been killed during the past 12 years of Congress government in the state.

According to the latest census (March 2013), there are 2,329 rhinos in Assam, up from 2,290 the previous year.
The KMSS supporters shouted slogans against forest minister Rakibul Hussain, alleging that the department had failed to identify rackets involved in continuous poaching of rhinos.

They alleged that steps taken to improve security arrangements in the forests were not enough.


" Fast and fresh" Assam teas now worldwide

Fast and fresh Assam teas now worldwide

Assam teas will be delivered “fast and fresh” worldwide with Siliguri-based online brand Teabox all set to launch its operations from Guwahati.
Founded in 2012, Teabox delivers tea direct from its place of origin to customers and ships the world’s freshest teas chosen by tea experts all over the world within 24-48 hours of production. It is delivered within three to five working days to its customers worldwide.
“The market for Assam teas is bigger than Darjeeling in terms of volume. A majority of consumers prefer strong teas and Assam, especially second flush, does an excellent job in terms of matching the customers’ preference. Hence going forward, we would be procuring large quantities of teas from Assam and Guwahati would be the largest of our centres by way of business,” Teabox founder and CEO Kaushal Dugar told The Telegraph.
Characteristics like rich malty flavour, fuller body, bright colour, briskness and sweet aroma have made Assam tea a hot favourite among tea enthusiasts all over the world. The company is planning to start the Guwahati centre in the last quarter of this year. At present, it operates from Siliguri.
“We are looking to procure from around 30-40 best plantations in Assam. We sell only orthodox tea,” Dugar said.
As of now, 30 per cent of teas being sold are from Assam. This will increase and there will be more variety when it launches its Guwahati centre. With a range of over 150 varieties of fresh tea from over 75 different plantations in Darjeeling, Nepal, Assam, Kangra and the Nilgiris, the company claims to provide the largest selection of single estate and premium fresh teas of the country online.
“Tea has a huge market globally but most of the consumption/buying happens offline. We are really trying to shift the pattern of buying from offline to online, which is very challenging, as tea is a product that people look/feel/smell and then buy. But wine and coffee have done that successfully, so we believe tea should not be that different,” he said.
The company has already delivered over five million cups of tea to connoisseurs in over 65 countries. Seventy per cent of its customers are repeat ones. On why people should buy from Teabox, Dugar said it is because of the extremely high quality of teas, backed by superior customer experience and service.
“We buy the best teas and make them better through our extensive in-house quality control systems. Our shipping team ensures that they reach most destinations in three to five working days,” he said.
“We believe that a majority of the offline market in tea can be converted into online. The size of the online market is $5 billion to $6 billion whereas that of offline market is $40 billion. There is space for other firms to join in the online tea market sphere,” Dugar said.
On the other hand, tea shipped from Inland Container Depot from Amingaon on the outskirts of Guwahati takes about 30 days to reach the UK and about 20 days to get to Dubai.


In 10 years, no Assam forest minister has set foot on Manas national park, a World Heritage Site....

http://epaper.telegraphindia.com/detail/75437-151450765.htmlManas: A conservation road less travelled
ROOPAK GOSWAMI T he road to Manas National Park — one of the country's richest wildlife areas in Assam — does not seem to be on the itinerary for Assam's politicians.
No forest minister of the state has gone to Manas — a World Heritage Site in almost a decade — to get a first- hand account of the problems it faces.
There is a lurking danger that if the situation does not improve, it may well lose its hard fought heritage site tag, which it got back in 2011.
The national park that is noted for its spectacular scenery, with a variety of habitat that support a diverse fauna, falls under Kokrajhar parliamentary constituency, which goes to polls on April 24.
Well- known wildlife conservationist Bittu Sahgal says, " Manas is a tragedy foretold.
One of the world's most exquisite forests, it lies neglected and victim to both politics and social unrest. The forest minister of Assam should visit the park and speak to locals about protecting it." " The Bodo people themselves should recognise this heritage site as vital to their identity. It is a tragedy that they have allowed outside influences to destabilise the ecology of this forest, which actually belongs to their own children and should have been protected forever," Sahgal told The Telegraph . After the elections were announced, a rally was addressed by party president and BTC chief Hagrama Mohilary on April 18, along with party MP ( Rajya Sabha) Biswajit Daimary, to campaign for its candidate, Chandan Brahma, at Rupahi, 4km south of Manas, but there was no mention of Manas.
Six candidates — Chandan Brahma ( BPF), Ranjit Shekhar Mooshahary ( Trinamul), Urkhao Gwra Brahma ( Independent), Sansuma Khunggur Bwiswmuthiary ( Independent), Sabda Ram Rabha ( Independent), Hira Sarania ( Independent) are fighting for the Kokrajhar parliamentary seat ( ST).
" There has been no mention of Manas till now by political leaders in the rally today," Ajay Kherkatary, the president of the Manas Bhuyanpara Conservation and Ecotourism Society, told The Telegraph . " We have been telling the political leaders of the need to provide importance to Manas through action. For us, Manas is important and we have to save it," he said.
Rhino conservationist Bibhab Talukdar, who is the chair of the Asian Rhino Specialist Group, says that Manas has been ignored by politicians. " I feel that Manas, being a World Heritage Site and also a tiger reserve, has been ignored by all politicians. Manas has been witnessing many challenges like Kaziranga, but for conservation and protection purposes, Kaziranga always gets more priority and publicity and support. After the formation of the Bodoland Territorial Council, Manas seems to be hanging between the two power centres — the state and the council. Both lack the strong willingness to assist each other to promote Manas," he told The Telegraph . The national park takes its name from the Manas river, a trans- boundary river in the Himalayan foothills between southern Bhutan and India.
It is named after Manasa, the serpent god in Hindu mythology.
Forest officials concede the fact that Kaziranga has always got more from the state than Manas despite the latter being more rich in wildlife diversity.
The park has six national and international designations — World Heritage Site, national park, tiger reserve, biosphere reserve, elephant reserve and important bird area — which probably no other protected park in the country has. A total of 55 mammals, 36 reptiles and three amphibians have been recorded in Manas which harbours by far the greatest number of Schedule I mammals of any protected area in the country.
Eighteen rhinos were translocated to Manas, of which poachers killed seven after it got back its heritage tag in 2011. " This is indeed a great setback towards restrengthening Manas to gain its lost glory back. BTC should take it as a challenge to manage Manas as best as possible and compete positively with Kaziranga," Talukdar said.
Though the BTC runs the park on a day- to- day basis, it is governed by the Wildlife ( Protection) Act, 1972 ( as amended in 2006). " Permission for doing research in Manas has to be taken from the chief wildlife warden," a wildlife researcher said.
" Manas should be on the political agenda of Assam if we are to save it," Rathin Barman, another wildlife conservationist who has been involved in the rhino rehabilitation in Manas, said.
According to a IUCN report on Terrestrial Biodiversity and the World Heritage Site List, the importance of Manas is much more than Kaziranga by the criteria of " irreplaceability". Manas is 417th in rank in terms of irreplaceability whereas Kaziranga is 2,236.
This apart, there is a potential source of conflict between Assam forest department and the BTC on the power.
Under the Memorandum of Settlement on Bodoland Territorial Council 2003, forests has been transferred to BTC but not wildlife.
The problems Manas faces are enormous — from militants, rising encroachment, poaching, delay in getting funds, vacant posts which have dealt a blow to it.
The National Tiger Conservation Authority says the incidents of rhino poaching in Manas have definitely been a cause for concern and evidence collected from the scene of the crime confirms the use of sophisticated weapons, bullets for which have been recovered.
Both sides have been accusing each other for not doing enough for conservation of Manas with the result that the park is losing out.
 Kokrajhar votes on April 24