On June 9, 2011, two poachers Haren Daimari and Dharmeswar Basumatary entered the Rajiv Gandhi Orang National Park in Assam and killed a protected one-horn rhino, unaware that they had been camera-trapped.
Fours years later, those pictures have proved their guilt. They were on Tuesday convicted under the Wildlife Protection Act, 1972 and awarded two years rigorous imprisonment with fine of Rs 25,000 each by the Session Judge of Mangaldai.
This judgment happens to be first in any wildlife crime case in the country where pictures of camera traps were used as evidence against the accused. Camera traps are mostly used in tiger habitats across the country for survey purposes. And in Orang park, Aaranyak a society for biodiversity conservation — installed about 60 such cameras. On January 5, 2011, Aaranyak research team found pictures of three poachers with their guns and they immediately shared them with Assam Forest Department authorities. A search operation was immediately launched. Meanwhile, on June 9, 2011, one rhino was killed and the poachers were the immediate suspects.
With Aaranyak’s help, Sushil Daila, the DFO of Mangaldoi, released posters with the pictures of the poachers and requested the villagers to help in identifying them. A cash reward was also announced. The ploy worked and the poachers surrendered within a month. They also deposited their weapons.
“It has been a major success for the Forest Department in convicting poachers as conviction rate is very low in wildlife cases. This time due to evidence obtained by modern technology, the poachers had very little option but to surrender,” said Dr M Firoz Ahmed, who led the camera installation team in Orang.