Kaziranga: Flood is a golden time for rhino poachers

Personnel of the rhino protection force in the flooded Kaziranga National Park in Assam on Saturday. Photo credit: Assam forest department. 

As wild animals including the prized one-horned rhinos rush to higher lands to avoid floods in Assam's Kaziranga National Park,  authorities have sounded an alert to thwart attempt by poachers having links with international traffickers.

"The flood season in Kaziranga has been a golden time for poachers looking to hunt rhinos for horns as the animals move to high lands to escape floods and in search of fodder. Keeping this in mind to protect the prized possession, we have recently induced a rhino protection force, trained and equipped with all latest armoury to tackle and bring down such poachers in real-time and eliminate the risk of poaching. This force, consisting of 82 specially trained commandos, has been divided into groups of five and spread across the national park to counter any such risks and possibilities," said a statement issued by the office of Assam forest minister Parimal Suklabaidya.

With 2,413 rhinos (2018 census), Kaziranga is the home to world's largest number of one-horned rhinos, besides Royal Bengal tigers, wild buffalo and other animals. But the rhinos in 434-sq km Kaziranga, a UNESCO world heritage site and a tourist attraction has been a target of poachers, who kill them and sell the horns to the international gang of smugglers. A total of 77 rhinos has been killed since 2013, including three this year so far. Rhino horns have high demand as they are used for the preparation of traditional medicines in many South East Asian countries. 

Two poachers were arrested on Saturday in Biswanath district following an increase in vigil by the forest department and police.

As animals rush to the hills, many have been hit by vehicles in the past while crossing the National Highway 37 that passes through Kaziranga. A wild deer was crushed to death by a car on Saturday while crossing the highway. The authorities have imposed speed limit and started issuing time cards for the vehicles plying on the stretch of the highway. Section 144 of CrPc prohibiting the gathering of more than five persons have also been imposed to prevent poaching. 

Flood essential for Kaziranga

While people in Assam suffer due to floods almost every year, the deluge is considered essential for the survival of Kaziranga's ecology. "Due to river Brahmaputra’s overflow and increase in the level of water, not only the grasslands are revitalised but also the excess water flow flushes out the aquatic weeds and unwanted plants besides adding mineral-rich alluvial soil essential for the growth of grass and shrubs for feeding of herbivores," said the statement. 

Nearly 80% of Kaziranga has been submerged by the current wave of flood. 

A total of four hog deers have died due to car hits and drowning while seven has been rescued and released in the high land, said a statement issued by Kaziranga National Park. A total of 155 anti-poaching camps have been inundated by floods so far.

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