After a lull lasting four years, an alleged case of poaching has been reported from Jaldapara National Park in North Bengal, where the carcass of adult male rhino minus its horn was found, officials said Saturday
“It is a fresh carcass and the horn is missing”, state chief wildlife warden Ujjwal Bhattacharya said, adding it was recovered Friday evening. He dubbed it as “matter of concern”.
Principal Chief Conservator of Forest (PCCF), N C Bahuguna said he has reached north Bengal and will soon inspect the spot. However, Vipin Sood, conservator of forest (wild life) of north Bengal, who visited the spot today, said, “The male rhino was aged between 25 to 30 years and its horn was cut off. It is an incident of poaching.”
He said the carcass has been sent for an autopsy, which will also help ascertain if the animal was shot dead before its horn was sawed off or if it died of bleeding after losing its horn. An inquiry into the incident will be ordered after the postmortem report is received.
The last incident of rhino poaching was recorded in the Jaldapara National Park in 2010.
According to the state forest department’s annual report for 2012, the Jaldapara sanctuary had 75 rhinos in 1969. However, over the next two decades, the numbers dropped drastically, till only 14 were left in 1986. It forced a group of senior forest officers in Kolkata and Jaldapara to devise a survival strategy to save the animal. They formed several Eco Development Committees (EDC) comprising residents of the villages located on the fringes of the sanctuary. These committees were assigned the duty to patrol the forest and to collect information about the poachers. The experiment worked and over the years, the rhino population went up. In May 2012, the sanctuary was declared a national park.
A rhino census conducted in in February, 2013 recorded a phenomenal growth in the rhino population.
The census report reveals that the Jaldapara Park has at least 186 rhinos — 62 males, 55 females, 23 sub-adults, 42 cubs and four others whose sex could not be determined. Forest officers say the actual number might have crossed 190, up from 149 rhinos reported in the 2011 census.