By Pranjal Baruah
GUWAHATI: Kaziranga National Park authorities, wildlife organizations and local stakeholders proposed that an elite force of 'Smart Guards' be deployed to protect the park's one-horned rhinos.
"The proposed elite force will have around 50 Smart Guards. The force will have binoculars, spotoscopes, hand-held GPS sets, range finders, night-vision goggles, thermal scanners, powerful searchlights, bullet-proof jackets and helmets. Six months of intensive training will be needed to train the staff," read a statement by park authorities. The authorities also suggested extending the park area.
"Rhinos are vulnerable when they go astray, especially when they enter Karbi Anglong during floods. We proposed that watershed areas in Karbi Anglong be included in the park. It needs at least 2,000 sq km area for rhino movement," said park director M K Yadava. Also proposed was an office of the Wildlife Crime Control Bureau in Guwahati which will act as an enforcement agency.
Fast-track courts for wildlife crimes were also suggested. The state government and park authorities were busy preparing a draft incorporating the various suggestions. The state government is expected to submit the draft before Gauhati high court next week.
After being rapped by the HC, which had taken suo motu cognizance of rhino poaching, the state government had sought public opinion on long-term solutions. The HC had demanded a solution to poaching, encroachment and erosion at Kaziranga. So far, at least 15 rhinos have been killed by poachers this year.
On Tuesday, the forest department organized an international conclave to collect suggestions from international organizations. Richard Emslie, scientific officer of African Rhino Specialist Group, said, "China, Indonesia, Tibet and Vietnam are involved in rhino horn smuggling. A human intelligence network should be developed by locals."
Representatives of several local bodies stressed on developing 'green livelihood' in and around the park. "We demand that the proposed elite force recruit 50% local men who know the area better very well. Moreover, the government must work on providing locals with proper healthcare and education. Proper relocation schemes should be prepared for those who will have to leave their land," said the representatives.
Meanwhile, amicus curiae in the case, P N Choudhury told Times of India that the CBI, which has been entrusted with the probe into poaching, will file an affidavit at the next hearing. The HC is slated to take up the matter on May 26.