By Roopak Goswami
Effective anti-poaching strategies by Kaziranga National Park have resulted in the killing of 21 poachers till date this year — the highest in the past five years at least.
Sources said the park officials used a combination of strategies to take the attack to poachers who constantly change their strategy, as it was known that no single solution from the management side would work magic. “The problem needs to be understood in its entirety and strategies need to be evolved accordingly,” a senior park official said.
“The number of attacks by poachers has increased this year as the pressure was more and they were desperate. There have been attacks in the morning too though they prefer darkness and full-moon nights for poaching, but could otherwise strike at any time,” a park official said.
The report (Issues and Possible Solutions for Long-term Solutions of the Greater One-horned Rhinoceros in Kaziranga), prepared by park director M.K. Yadava and submitted to Gauhati High Court, has stated that the anti-poaching performance of the field staff in this year has been very good, surpassing all previous records. A lot of help came from the task force headed by an additional director-general of police, in which officials of home and forest department were members.
Another remarkable change in strategy that was effected this year was to erect watch towers at vulnerable places. “We put some personnel from internal camps on watch towers. The gaps in the camps were filled up by casual workers and home guards. The effect is that poaching in some areas has substantially come down,” the official said.
Another change in strategy was to offer sustained resistance to poachers. Operations against them were continued for several hours stretching to more than 24 hours anyway, and often extending to 3-5 days together, 24X7. “This led to fatigue among the field staff. If today, we cannot give sufficient strength to have a flexibility of at least 12-hour deployment (8-hour deployment does not make much sense in jungle warfare) in the field, sustaining anti-poaching strikes would become very difficult to achieve,” the official said.
“The number of attacks from the northern side has increased as compared to Karbi Anglong this year from last year,” the official said.
Wildlife conservationist Bittu Sahgal said poachers do not just kill rhinos, tigers and elephants. They kill forest guards as well. “The only reason that people enter Kaziranga after dark with guns is to kill, and they risk being killed in the process,” Sahgal told The Telegraph.
Asia co-ordinator at International Rhino Foundation, Bibhab Talukdar, said despite many challenges, it is encouraging to see frontline staff of Kaziranga fighting back to check poaching and were successful in gunning down a few poachers in the past couple of months.