The induction of an unmanned aerial vehicle to carry out better surveillance of Kaziranga,the first time this is being done in the country,only underlines the failure of the Tarun Gogoi government to check poaching that has left 16 rhinos dead in the park and other sanctuaries of the state this year.
The park has over 2,300 highly endangered one-horned rhinos.
The drone will fly over its vulnerable areas with officials in the control room getting real-time video footage. World Wide Fund for Nature,which has collaborated on the project,and Kaziranga officials hope this will help react quickly to any unnatural movement in the Brahmaputra grasslands that comprise the park.
That there is an eye on the park from air will act as a deterrent to poaching,officials hope. The move comes after failed attempts to safeguard the park from hunters despite their meeting points and modus operandi being well-known.
While the state government recently raised two battalions of the Assam Forest Protection Force,armed its jawans with automatic self-loading rifles and also upgraded four ranges of Kaziranga into divisions,its efforts have failed to check poachers.
Organised gangs of criminals have a network that starts with a poor villager in the vicinity of Kaziranga and goes right up to Hong Kong,Bangkok and Beijing.
The fact that rhinos stray out of the 860-sq km national park has made the poachers task easier. Besides,there is increasing human pressure on Kaziranga and the five other rhino sanctuaries in Assam. Official statistics say over 2,300 sq km of Assams 26,832 sq km forest area has been encroached upon,including 315.53 hectares in Kaziranga. Around 176 sq km area in four other national parks and six wildlife sanctuaries in Assam is also with encroachers.
The preservation of rhinos in Kaziranga is a miracle story. Its upon the government to ensure that miracle lasts.
Samudra is a special correspondent based in Guwahati