Monday, June 24, 2024

Javadekar takes stock of rhino poaching in Kaziranga


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Guwahati: Union Minister of Environment and Forest (MoEF) Prakash Javadekar Friday expressed anguish over the unabated poaching of the rare one-horned rhinoceros in Kaziranga National Park in Assam and rapid shrinking of forest cover in the Northeast region.
Arriving here for a two-day visit including a day-long visit to Kaziranga National Park (NP), where he is going to take stock of the rhino conservation measures and existing infrastructure , Javadekar said the Union government was very concerned over rhino poaching incidents and wanted to put a stop to it.
“My colleague in the Parliament have been expressing concern over rhino killings in Assam and asking me to make a on the spot study of the matter. Hence, I am here to take stock. I will talk to forest officials, conservation workers and people’s organisations during my trip to get facts about the issue,” the MoEF said.
On his arrival in Guwahati, a prominent research-based nature conservation organization in the Northeast, Aaranyak submitted to Javadekar a detail about the rhino conservation scenario in the state.
According to submission made by Aaranyak, currently, there are total 2553 rhinos in Assam (as per the census done by Assam Forest Department in 2013) with 2329 being in Kaziranga NP, 100 in Orang NP, 93 in Pabitora Wild Life Sanctuary (WLS) and 31 rhinos in Manas NP.
As per rhino mortality data available total 41 rhinos were killed in Assam in 2013 including 27 in Kaziranga, two in Pabitora WLS, four in Orang NP, four in Manas NP and rest six outside protected areas mainly near Kaziranga NP.
Twenty-two rhinos were killed by poachers in Assam, mostly in Kaziranga NP, till September 3 this year.
Aaranyak apprises the MoEF following challenges before rhino conservation in Assam:
1. Recent high demand for rhino horn in China and South-East Asian countries.
2. Insufficient intelligence gathering and field-based action for tracing the poachers’ networks.
3. Low rate of conviction of the suspects due to improper legal procedures and lack of proper evidence gathering mechanism.
4. Permeability of the protected area boundaries and insufficient anti-poaching camps and patrolling at the bordering areas.
5. Insufficient Government action for providing security, basic facilities like uniform, water filter and boosting the morale of the frontline forest staff and field officers.
6. Lack of mechanism for monitoring and protection of straying rhinos outside the protected areas.
7. Poor coordination of the Forest Department with the local residents, organizations and other government agencies in the matter of generating support for conservation and protection actions.
8. Delay in release of funds to the protected areas by the Government.
9. Lack of expert guidance in understanding the root causes and driving the protests against rhino poaching, leading to the failure of such protests in effectively pressurizing the Government on the right issues.
The MoEF was informed that Assam Forest Department had not recruited sufficient number of rangers and forest guards to strengthen the field staff and this has resulted in a top-heavy situation where there are many officers in the department but insufficient number of trained field staff to carry out conservation duty.
Field staff should be recruited from among locals living in the vicinity of protected areas so that local people remain supportive to the conservation efforts.
The green brigade highlighted the need for arranging for refresher courses for the frontline forest staff on anti-poaching actions, weapon use and maintenance training besides providing housing facilities , healthcare facilities, insurance cover to frontline staff and casual workers in National Parks and facility for schools for the children of the field staff.
The MoEF was urged to constitute local monitoring committees involving local residents, organizations, Honorary Wildlife Wardens and other stakeholders regarding conservation in and around the rhino-bearing protected areas so as to improve coordination between the Forest Department and local residents surrounding the rhino bearing areas.
There was a request to form armed protection squads trained by the Army along the lines adopted in South Africa, Namibia and Botswana with modern armaments, electronic surveillance and vehicles for protection and anti-poaching actions on rhinos both outside and inside protected areas.


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