Illegal settlers posed threat to Kaziranga Park wildlife

From Our Correspondent

Guwahati: The famed abode on one-horned Indian rhino and a UNESCO World Heritage Site, Kaziranga National Park in Assam has faced tough challenge to keep rampaging rhino poachers under check basically because of growing number of settlements suspected illegal migrants from Bangladesh around the Park’s core area.

The poachers have been virtually on rampage in the Park since the beginning of this year killing nine precious rhinos so far in the Park, according to official figures.

It is alarming given that Kaziranga Park where conservation of wildlife dates back to over a century, is considered the most successful story of rhino conservation on the globe.

The poachers continue to keep forest personnel in the park on the toes despite deployment of additional forces in the park.

Assam government recently formed Assam Forest Protection Force (AFPF) and recruited 300 personnel exclusively to man Kaziranga Park.

The force is equipped with SLRs and .303 rifles. Out of these new recruits, 100 have already joined their duty in Kaziranga Park.

According to an official source, rhino protection in the Park has become challenging task of late because of growing numbers of settlements of encroachers in new additions to the Park.

These encroachers of suspect nationality as they are suspected as illegal Bangladeshi migrants , have been working in favour of poaches by providing shelters and giving information about rhinos straying out of core area of the Park.

In view of increase in the population of rhinos, tigers, wild buffaloes etc, new additions (areas) were officially added to the 430 Square kilometer Kaziranga Park recently.

The first addition in Burapahar area is of 43.79 sq. km., the second addition of 6.47 Sq.km is in Sildubi, the third addition in Panbari area is on 0.69 sq.km, the fourth addition in Kanchanjuri area is of 0. 89 sq.km, , the fifth addition is Haldhibari area is of 1.15 sq.km and the sixth and largest addition of 376.50 sq.km is comprised of Brahmaputra sand bar islands to the north of the National Park.

The areas under the first, fourth and sixth additions to Kaziranga Park are now under heavy encroachment of suspected illegal migrants from Bangladesh who have travelled upstream the Brahmaputra River on search of greener pastures.

These encroachers are creating problem of protection of the Park and its resources.

Besides resorting to illegal fishing in wetlands inside the Park, felling of trees, these encroachers are suspected to be hand in glove with rhino poachers on the prowl.

A two-member Division Bench of Gauhati High Court comprising Justice AK Goel and Justice N K Singh on January 9 directed Assam government to evict encroachers from new additions to Kaziranga Park and handover the same to the national park authority within three months after completion of the entire process.

The High Court has issued the directive to the State government of Assam in connection with a suo moto PIL (66/2012) taken up by the court in the wake of recent incidents of rhino poaching in the KNP as well as another PIL filed by one Mrinal Saikia (67/2012) asking for intervention of the Court in prevention of rhino poaching incidents in the national park known for its treasure trove of one-horned of Indian rhinoceros.