The Assam government Thursday placed Director of the Kaziranga National Park, Mufakkher Ali under suspension for allegedly trying to conceal from the state forest minister an incident of rhino poaching that had taken place on June 7 even as the minister was on a tour of the Park.
“We have placed Park director Mufakkher Ali under suspension with immediate effect for dereliction of duty. Here is a clear case of an attempt to hide from me the fact that a rhino was killed inside the National Park even when I and two other ministers were on tour of Kaziranga on June 7,” Assam forest minister Pramila Rani Brahma said.
The IFS officer was placed under suspension following an approval from the chief minister, she said.
She said that while the news of a rhino killed by poachers was all over, the Kaziranga Park director continued to deny the incident for two consecutive days. “Two days later, on return to Guwahati, I told the media on the basis of his report that there no rhino was killed on June 7. But later the same day, the officer confirmed that a rhino was indeed killed by poachers. Next day when I rushed to Kaziranga and wanted to see for myself the carcass of the animal, the Park authorities could not even organize an elephant,” minister Brahma said.
“There were clear attempts of misleading me. It also appeared to be a deliberate attempt to cause embarrassment to the new government,” minister Brahma said. The government has also shunted out the Range Officer of Agaratoli Range where the last rhino was killed on June 7. Poachers had managed to escape after removing its horn.
While incidents of rhino poaching had increased in Kaziranga in recent years, official estimates have put the number of rhinos killed between 2005 and 2015 at 135. With the previous Congress government failing to put an end to poaching incidents, the BJP-led alliance had made it a major issue while campaigning in the recently concluded Assam Assembly elections. Poachers have killed at least eight rhinos inside the 430-sq km National Park this year.