By Naresh Mitra
The arrest of suspected poachers in connection with recent rhino poaching in the state has failed to deter criminals from killing more rhinos. Many poachers, who had been arrested for poaching earlier, managed to escape imprisonment and committed the crime again this year.
Dibyajyoti Doley (24), who was arrested during a joint operation by Kaziranga National Park officials and police on March 26 this year, is a repeat offender. A resident of Polashguri village in Golaghat district, Dibyajyoti, was also arrested in 2011 for rhino poaching.
Along with Dibyajyoti, four other accused - Pradip Pegu, Bishnu Pegu, Atul Pegu and Bhaiti Pegu - all from Golaghat district, were arrested in connection with this year's rhino poaching. Bishnu of Balijan village is also a repeat offender as he was arrested for rhino poaching and illegal trade of rhino horn in 2010 too.
Dibyajyoti and Bishnu were bailed out of jail for their previous crimes, but they indulged in poaching activities again this year. The arrest of poachers and their subsequent bail has made the efforts taken by forest officials to stop rhino killings a zero-sum game. Sources said the rate of conviction of the accused is almost nil.
"It is indeed a big challenge for us. Despite all our continued efforts in arresting poachers, they manage to get bail. There are instances of former poachers committing the crime again. We are training officials up to foresters' level to conduct proper investigation into wildlife crimes so that the arrested cannot get bail for their offences," principal chief conservator of forest Suresh Chand said.
The Wildlife (Protection) (Assam Amendment) Act, 2009, has made poaching of Schedule I and Part II of Schedule II species non-bailable. According to the forest department, 36 suspected poachers were arrested this year, while in 2012 it was 141. Three poachers were killed in encounters with forest officials this year, four in 2012 and six in 2011.
"There are many such cases of poachers being released on bail and indulging in wildlife crimes again. Arrests will not act as a deterrent for these criminals unless the poachers are convicted for their crimes. The investigation also has to be more aggressive," a wildlife crime expert said.
Chand said one of the biggest challenges in dealing with poachers is catching them while they are committing the crime. "Once poachers leave the crime scene, it becomes very difficult. Poaching and illegal trade of rhino horn is very complex and a multi-layered network of players spread in different states and countries are involved in it," Chand added. More....