GUWAHATI: The Kaziranga National Park authorities have decided to upgrade their anti-poaching infrastructure and arm forest guards with protective gear which can withstand AK 47 bullets from close quarters.
Of late, poachers have been having a free run shooting rhinos at will with assault rifles. Six rhinos were killed in the park this year.
As of now, forest guards are equipped with 12 bore rifles, .31 rifles, .303 rifles, carbines and self-loading rifles. Four personnel from the Assam Police, who accompany these guards on operations, carry AK series rifles.
Apart from an electronic eye, which is an unmanned 24x7 surveillance system based on long-range thermal sensors, the park plans to equip guards with portable thermal image scanners and night vision devices.
Apart from this, they will get night-vision binoculars and radio equipment for Wi-fi and wireless networks.
The idea is not just to protect the guards from poachers but also from attacks of wild animals deep inside the forest where visibility dips to zero at night.
Besides the full body protection armour- bullet proof vests with groin protection and protection for AK series from close quarters -there will be bullet proof helmets, high intensity search lights, hand held metal detectors, deep search metal detectors, global positioning system and GIS/image processing software, night vision devices and automatic weather station that provides data on temperature, pressure, wind and humidity. The divisional forest officer of Eastern Assam Wildlife Division, Bokakhat, SK Seal Sarma, told TOI, "Our men are caught between the poachers and the harsh weather. Near the river bank, visibility at night becomes zero. Last year five of our men died of animal attacks. We need to have better vision devices."
The electronic eye installation process is expected to start this month. "Tenders have been floated and we expect the equipment soon. Forest guards in vulnerable areas will have them," said Sarma.