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Anti-rhino poaching unit steps up operations

By R Dutta Choudhury

GUWAHATI, June 21 � Poachers have started using different routes to transport rhino horns in addition to the usual route through Nagaland. Meanwhile, the Anti-rhino Poaching Task Force, which started operating from June 1 last, has concentrated its search operations on the villages in the periphery of the Kaziranga National Park through which the poachers normally enter the Park.

Talking to The Assam Tribune, highly placed official sources said that earlier, the poachers used to take rhino horns away only through Dimapur. But of late, they have started using different routes and there have been instances of the poachers taking horns to Nepal. Recently four persons were arrested in Coochbehar along with a rhino horn.

Sources said that there are people who are ready to pay at least Rs 30 to 40 lakh on the spot for each rhino horn and that is why the demand has increased substantially and some local boys have also started resorting to poaching. On the involvement of militants in poaching, sources said that in a few cases in the past, the involvement of KPLT militants in poaching was suspected. But it is an established fact that the militants have started hiring out weapons to the poachers for easy money.

On the activities of the newly formed force comprising Assam Police and Forest Department personnel, sources said that the Force, headed by Additional Director General in charge of the Special Task Force of the Assam Police, RM Singh, was notified on May 16 but the force started operations on June 1. The Force formed six commando teams with vehicles and sophisticated weapons and they are on the move in the periphery of Kaziranga National Park as the poachers normally take shelter in some of the villages in the periphery of the park to make their plans.

Sources said that raids are conducted in the villages where the poachers normally take shelter and efforts are on to create a network of informers in such villages. It may be mentioned here that four poachers have been killed since the new Force started operating. Sources revealed that the special commando teams are given adequate communication equipment and they are constantly in touch with the operation control room, which is manned round the clock. �The Force is trying to go for search and trap operations against the poachers and the move started paying results, �sources added.

Sources revealed that there was a time when poachers from Nagaland used to come to kill rhinos and they took locals as spotters. But some local youths have also started killing and in one case, one surrendered NDFB militant was also involved. The poachers normally use .303 and .315 rifles, while, there are instances of the poachers using AK series rifles.

The Force has also prepared a list of around 200 persons suspected to be involved in poaching and interestingly, according to information gathered by police, in some cases, some of the suspects escaped to Kerala and Bengaluru following the crackdown launched by the Task Force.

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