Kaziranga’s highly-endangered one-horned rhinos can be secured only through a major policy change on land-use, militants and illegal arms, while the animal corridors that have been fragmented due to anthropogenic reasons must be restored at all costs, the Rhino Task Force constituted constituted by NTCA, in its report has said.
The Rhino Task Force (RTF) was constituted by the National Tiger Conservation Authority for suggesting measures for strengthening rhino conservation in Kaziranga following a spate of incidents of poaching, as also other anthropogenic pressures causing major hurdles for the Park.
The four-member Task Force had submitted its report to NTCA in May, a copy of which was made available by RTI activist Rohit Choudhary who has been relentlessly fighting for raising the protection standards in Kaziranga.
The RTF in its report raised serious concern over rapid encroachment on the animal corridors, as also poachers taking shelter in adjoining villages, and called for strengthening rhino protection through intelligence-based enforcement and improving field monitoring of rhino with the state-of-art technology.
Describing rampant rhino poaching in Kaziranga as a fallout of poor governance and weak institutional structures, the Task Force particularly pointed at increasing encroachment on revenue lands around Kaziranga Park, mushrooming of dhabas and hotels along NH-715 on its southern boundary, and suggested removing these “barriers” to keep the corridors clear. It also suggested use of ‘electronic eye’ to monitor safe passage of animals through these corridors, and constructing more watch towers at strategic locations near them.
The Task Force also suggested sanitization of a 15-km area around the Park of illegal arms, and said this alone would drastically bring down the number of poaching incidents. “However, in a state which is infested with so many active militant groups and many surrendered groups who have been allowed to retain their weapons with them, nothing much can be expected in this direction,” the report said.
Putting the blame for increased poaching equally between forest personnel and security forces, the Task Force said police, para-military forces and the Army should also be held responsible for failure of their intelligence network to prevent criminal elements. “The police, the para military forces and the armed forces also have to perform their duties and contribute their full might in controlling illegal arms movement around the Kaziranga Tiger Reserve,” it said.
Yet another problem identified by the Task Force is the transfer of protection staff fom Kaziranga to other locations. “Recruiting staff in the name of Kaziranga and later transferring them outside the Park, release of funds under CSS (Project Tiger) at the end of financial year by the state government (sometimes the release is only partial), and lack of co-ordination among various law enforcement agencies,” it observed.
Kaziranga’s 5 woes:
(i) growing disposable income in countries consuming rhino horn,
(ii) infestation of the region around Kaziranga and neighboring States with militants and unlicensed fire arms,
(iii) limited capacity of state government to deal with criminals and militants,
(iv) poor investigation of wildlife crimes and lack of conviction of poachers and traffickers in court of law, and
(v) lack of coordination among law enforcement agencies.