Save the Rhino

A spate of killings of the rare species of one-horned rhino in Kaziranga has shocked Assam, but the state government plays blind

Ravi Shankar Ravi Guwahati

The beautiful one-horned rhinoceros is the pride of Assam. Hence, an attack on the rhinoceros is an attack on the pride of Assam. But looking at the way these rhinos are being hounded, attacked and killed in Kaziranga National Park, this proud sanctuary can no longer be considered safe. Recently, a female and her young cub were brutally killed by the poachers. She bled for 24 hours after the poachers barbarically cut out her horns while she was unconscious. The dead cub had not developed the horns as yet. On January 7, 2008 there was another attack on a male rhino, and the poachers escaped. The District Forest Officer of Kaziranga National Park, Bankim Sharma, explains: “Some non-professionals have entered the poaching business as professional poachers do not kill the young ones whose horns are not developed.”

 Ironically, Kaziranga is known for this rare species of the rhino which attracts wildlife lovers from all over the globe. Last year, poachers in Kaziranga killed 22 Rhinos. According to a survey in 2006 there were approximately 2,000 single-horned Rhinos in this park, which is 60 per cent of the total population in the world. Some rhinos are also found in Pavitra Park and Manas National Park in Assam.

 One of the fastest disappearing species, a rhino's horn is worth Rs 30 lakh in the international market. With the increasing demand of the horns, poachers are on a spree. By selling one horn they earn up to Rs 5 lakh which sells as high as Rs 30 lakh in the international market. Countries like China, South Korea, Taiwan and Thailand use it for 'medicinal purpose' and the clandestine trade of animal parts (including poached tigers) from India has reportedly been spreading, especially to China, Tibet and Taiwan.

There is a nexus of poachers who are politically protected. Some poachers from Nagaland and Manipur also come to hunt the rhinos. A Manipuri poacher was shot dead at Kaziranga in December 2007. It is easy to kill rhinos during floods as they move to high ground to escape the rising waters, and hence become predictable and vulnerable. Floods also make patrolling by forest officials difficult. It is easier for the poachers to hide in the tall grass during the monsoon. However, this time, poaching did not stop even after the monsoon. The poachers continue to flex their muscles, kill the rhinos, and get away.

The clueless Congress-led state government has no concrete policy for the protection of rhinos. The funds, collected by the central government and NGOs, are used for other purposes by the forest department. Assam's Wildlife Protection Chief SC Malakar blames lack of modern guns and equipment to deal with the criminals. The poachers use silencer guns whereas the security still fights with vintage .303 rifles, which often fail to fire. Three poachers have been killed in encounters in the past one year.

S Bargohain, Director of Kaziranga National Park, says, “To protect the rhino the government must provide us better facilities and arms to deal with poachers. Lack of modern equipment, vehicles and surveillance gear makes the task difficult. As the park is adjacent to the Brhamaputra river, the water percolates inside the park easily during monsoon. The poachers use this opportunity and enter the area on boats and kill these magnificent creatures for quick bucks. The security doesn't even own a speedboat which could make the chase easier. At times the guards use elephants for patrolling, as it is difficult to drive on these roads.”

Kaziranga should follow the Manas example. At Manas National Park, the Bodoland Territorial Counseling (BTC) administration has been successful in making self-help groups of youth to help the security. Most of these are former Bodo rebels who, after the Bodoland agreement, are now involved in creative, social work.  This has helped them earn money and get involved in the cause of saving wildlife. Says Khampa Basumtary of the BTC forest department: “Forests and wildlife cannot be protected and rescued without the active participation of people. The natives will take an initiative only if it helps them earn. This experiment was successful in Manas and as a result poaching has come to an end here.”

 The Assam government has shown utter insensitivity and inefficiency. Forest Minister Rakeebul Hussain's reaction to the spate of rhino killings has been indifferent and cold. He has not even taken an inspection tour of the park. Environmentalists call it “shameful and disgusting”. “How can the forest minister and the chief minister of Assam remain so indifferent while the pride of Assam is being butchered at Kaziranga?” they say. There is huge public outrage in Assam. Save the rhino is the new slogan. The question is, who will do it?

Comments

the inability of the tarun

the inability of the tarun gogoi led assam govt to protect rhinos - the pride of assam, proves beyond doubt how inefficient and worthless the govt is. had there been any award worldwide for the worthless minster and chief minster, it would have surely gone for assam's forest minster rockybul hussain and the good-for-nothing chief minster tarun gogoi. no other govt can be so indifferent, dishonest, insincere to the problems affecting the state and the people.

very correclty, one of my delhi based friends was saying the other day that when tarun gogoi cannot protect the people in assam, how can we expect him to protect the rhinos in the state.

but, yes, gogoi is the champion for the cause of illegal bangladeshi migrants in assam. and the spurt in rhino poaching has also been partly due to the influx of bangladeshis who are now densely settled around the park. these jehadi bangladeshis, who come here to spread jehad and the islamic poison, are also deeply engaged in all sorts of anti-national and anti-assamese activities, rhino poaching being one of those.

but the worthless, good-for-nothing, anti-assamese tarun gogoi will never wake to this reality. and that's simple. bangladeshis, along with assamese muslims, are congress' trusted vote bank. so, the equation is very simple, the more are bangledeshi's in the state, the more strong and solid is tarun gogoi's suppport base.

i don't think the such merciless (if you see the photograph of dead rhino whose horn has been cruely chopped off, 'merciless' would be an euphemism) rhino killings have made any difference to the forest minster rockybul hussain or gogoi. they seem to be least bothered except appeasing the illegal 'guests' from the neighbouring country.

leave alone rhino, you can't keep a count on the daily killings of people in the state by insurgents and militant groups, many of whom have become pawns for the jehadis and other islamic terrorist organisations based in the neighbouring countries. developmental activities are almost nil in the state because gogoi and his company of dishonest, corrupt, selfish and inefficient minsters neither have the vision nor are they sincere, except rhetorics. the lumding-silchar gauge conversion of rail track has hit a cropper as mr gogoi cannot provide security to the workmen on site. (mind you, gogoi's personal security is a big headache for the common man in the state capital because when he moves, traffic on roads come to a standstill for precious 20-30 mins. his car is fitted with jammers and he moves on the roads with not less than 20 vehicles, trailed by an ambulance. just think why he needs protection. what's his contribution to the state that if he dies it will be a big big big - given the strength of his cavalcade - loss to assam.) so same is the case with the east-west highway corridor project too. if i say it's moving at at snail's pace, it would be an insult to snail. the beautiful city of guwahati, to say the least, has now become a jungle of concretes, purely due to lack of proper planning and vision. it takes an hour to travel a distance of 7 kms in guwahati. and if you are out in your private vehicle, you are sure to waste some precious half an hour at least in search of parking space. during rainy season, even an hours rain is sufficient to submerge half of the city and bringing the rest at a standstill (and it's a routine thing for guwahati during monsoons). there are big buildings, malls and apartments, (so what if the constructions are haphazard and jungly) in plenty in the city, but no clean air, no safe drinking water (don't forget even fishes die in brahmaputra due to water pollution), no proper drainage system or even clean roads, let alone pavements.3 to 4 years is the minimum time a flyover takes to take off in the city.

and the tragedy with the people of assam is that they do not have any political alternative. event the asom gana parishad (agp) is equally notorious. you can't expect anything better from that party too, given the sample shown by prafulla kumar mahanta, who was cm during agp's two tenures in the state in the past. the economy was looted and squeezed to the maximum by mahanta and his company. and very unfortunately, this party which came came to power riding on the illegal bangladeshi sentiment, did nothing to pressurise the centre to annul the notorious illegal migrants determination by tribunal act (imdt act) even when from 1999 to 2001 the bjp led nda govt was in power at the centre. (thank god that supreme court has of late done the favour in 2005)

imdt was nothing but a tool for the pro-bangladeshi and anti-assamese congress party to facilitate entry of more and more bangladeshis in the state by assuring them that they wont be deported back. the bjp's feelings and sincerity for the cause of assam was also evident sufficiently when being in power at the center, it did nothing to scrap the imdt act.

rhino poaching or human beings dying routinely in the state is just the symptom and not the disease. the disease is the failure of our political system - where once the election is over the political elite wields unlimited power and virtual impunity and behave as our bosses.

s dey,
guwahati.