By Samudra Gupta Kashyap
Even as a CBI team has arrived to investigate the increasing incidents of poaching of rhinoceros, officials have claimed to have found that poachers are recruiting young men from villages on the fringes of Kaziranga National Park.
"We have been told that a number of young men, including minors, have been roped in by different gangs that have targeted rhinos in Kaziranga in recent weeks. We are looking at a chain of criminals that begin with the local villager locating a rhino to the end-user across the international border," Ravindra Singh, SP, CBI Wildlife Crime Investigation Wing, told The Indian Express.
Singh and his team are camping in Kaziranga. "We have been told that at least 20 persons from adjoining villages, several of them young boys, have been arrested by the police in recent weeks. Most of them however are out on bail," Singh said.
The CBI, Singh added, is investigating three cases of poaching in recent weeks and is working to identify the chain of poaching gangs, from the villager near Kaziranga to operators in Nagaland and Manipur and the esnd-users abroad.
Kaziranga director N K Vasu, however, said the police have arrested at least 50 villagers from near the park in recent weeks.
"These boys have fallen into the trap of international gangs that operate through criminals in Dimapur in Nagaland, which is a known hub of unlawful activities," he added. "Some of them have confessed to having guided poachers coming from Nagaland and Manipur into the habitat of rhinos."
Kaziranga has lost 13 rhinos to poachers this year. The park's guards had killed two poachers in a shootout last month.
Poachers have been known to carry country-made weapons but in at least four recent cases, they used automatic assault rifles to kill rhinos, Vasu said.