By Samudra Gupta Kashyap
Sudden increase in the number of incidents of rhino poaching in Kaziranga National Park has sent alarm bells ringing at the International Union for Conservation of Nature, prompting it to express “significant concern” over the developments.
IUCN’s World Heritage Outlook, released a few days ago, has placed on record the fact that though Kaziranga had seen tremendous conservation success for decades, it now requires “enterprising and adaptive management strategies” to tackle the menace of poaching.
“The Kaziranga National Park is considered as one of the better managed Protected Areas in the country and elsewhere, owing both to its enabling framework and demonstrable success in conservation…. However, after decades of conservation success the recent spike in rhino poaching in the site is of particular concern,” IUCN’s World Heritage Outlook specifically said.
The 855-sq km National Park has been continuously in the headlines in the past two years, especially with poaching accounting for the loss of 27 rhinos in 2013. This year, even as three months are still left, Kaziranga has already lost 22 rhinos, with poachers escaping with the horn in almost all the cases. The last census carried out in 2013 had recorded 2329 rhinos in Kaziranga.
IUCN’s World Heritage Outlook took particular note of the changing dynamics of Kaziranga’s surrounding landscape, particularly with regard to the anthropogenic elements, and said these will be placing increasing pressure on the ecological integrity of the Park. “The current rhino poaching crisis has shown that the inevitable intensification of threats, current and potential, to the site will necessitate enterprising and adaptive management strategies to deal with the developing trend,” it said.
Pointing out that threat to the rhinos and Kaziranga National Park existed inside and outside of it, IUCN’s World Heritage Outlook also listed spread of invasive species (mimosa), livestock grazing, highway traffic, unplanned tourism infrastructure and seasonal flooding as additional current threats which have direct bearing on the wildlife and its habitat.
“Likewise, potential threats to the site which may pose challenge include the changing demographic and economic profile of the local population, illegal fishing and stone quarrying adjacent to the park, tourist pressure and river bank erosion. The predominantly anthropogenic drivers of these threats have long-term implications for the site from a conservation perspective,” it said.
Significantly, it was only recently that the Park authorities had submitted a detailed voluminous report to the Gauhati High Court, presenting in it a detailed study of Kaziranga National Park, and suggesting a slew of measures aimed at tackling poaching and all other threats that have subsequently found place in the IUCN report.