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Move on to create rhino protection force

By R Dutta Choudhury

GUWAHATI, May 11 - A move is on to create a special rhino protection force to deal with rhino poaching in Assam, while a proposal has been sent to the Government of India to declare the Kaziranga National Park and its peripheral areas as eco-sensitive zone to ban and regulate certain activities.

Highly placed official sources told The Assam Tribune that a formal memorandum of understanding would be signed between the Central and State Government for setting up the rhino protection force. The personnel of the force will be equipped with modern weapons and the Centre will provide funds required for raising it. Initially, one battalion of the force will be raised and if required, the strength may be increased in future. The draft of the MoU, to be signed between the Central and State government in this regard, is being prepared and the formalities are likely to be completed shortly.

Sources revealed that the State Government has forwarded a proposal to the Centre to declare Kaziranga National Park and its peripheral areas as eco-sensitive zones and if that is done, certain activities, like mining, etc., would be banned, while other activities like constructions for tourism, etc., would be regulated to some extent. The details in this regard are being worked out.

Giving details of the other steps initiated to check poaching of rhinos, sources revealed that steps have been initiated to set up ecological development committees comprising people living in the fringe areas of the Kaziranga National Park. By doing so, the villagers will be given stakes in the conservation process, while the Government, on its part, will help them in areas like skill development so that they can improve their standard of living. For years, the people living in the fringe areas were isolated from the conservation process, but their help is essential for protection of wildlife.

Use of available technology is another major step initiated to deal with poachers. Seven electronic eyes, that is, cameras set up in high rise towers, have been installed and the eighth one will be installed shortly. The camera feed will be relayed to the control room of the National Park so that any movement recorded in the cameras can be monitored closely.

Sources admitted that the personnel manning the National Park are still using old weapons and most of them are not trained properly to handle weapons. To deal with the problem, steps have been taken to replace the old weapons with modern ones. The Forest Department is also in touch with the Home Department so that the Forest personnel can be trained in handling of weapons in the firing ranges of the Assam Police.

Another major problem is that the cases registered against the poachers are often not taken to the �logical conclusion� and very often, the poachers manage to get bail. To deal with the problems, a legal cell is being set up to ensure that the cases are properly followed up.

On the involvement of Forest Department personnel in rhino poaching, sources said that initial report from the Department indicated that a few personnel of the Department were trying to hide the carcasses of the rhinos killed by poachers to sweep the incidents under the carpet, which itself is an offence. But only the completion of the investigation by the police would reveal whether those personnel were involved with the activities of the poachers, sources added.

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Move on to create rhino protection force

GUWAHATI, May 11 - A move is on to create a special rhino protection force to deal with rhino poaching in Assam, while a proposal has been sent to the Government of India to declare the Kaziranga National Park and its peripheral areas as eco-sensitive zone to ban and regulate certain activities.

Highly placed official sources told The Assam Tribune that a formal memorandum of understanding would be signed between the Central and State Government for setting up the rhino protection force. The personnel of the force will be equipped with modern weapons and the Centre will provide funds required for raising it. Initially, one battalion of the force will be raised and if required, the strength may be increased in future. The draft of the MoU, to be signed between the Central and State government in this regard, is being prepared and the formalities are likely to be completed shortly.

Sources revealed that the State Government has forwarded a proposal to the Centre to declare Kaziranga National Park and its peripheral areas as eco-sensitive zones and if that is done, certain activities, like mining, etc., would be banned, while other activities like constructions for tourism, etc., would be regulated to some extent. The details in this regard are being worked out.

Giving details of the other steps initiated to check poaching of rhinos, sources revealed that steps have been initiated to set up ecological development committees comprising people living in the fringe areas of the Kaziranga National Park. By doing so, the villagers will be given stakes in the conservation process, while the Government, on its part, will help them in areas like skill development so that they can improve their standard of living. For years, the people living in the fringe areas were isolated from the conservation process, but their help is essential for protection of wildlife.

Use of available technology is another major step initiated to deal with poachers. Seven electronic eyes, that is, cameras set up in high rise towers, have been installed and the eighth one will be installed shortly. The camera feed will be relayed to the control room of the National Park so that any movement recorded in the cameras can be monitored closely.

Sources admitted that the personnel manning the National Park are still using old weapons and most of them are not trained properly to handle weapons. To deal with the problem, steps have been taken to replace the old weapons with modern ones. The Forest Department is also in touch with the Home Department so that the Forest personnel can be trained in handling of weapons in the firing ranges of the Assam Police.

Another major problem is that the cases registered against the poachers are often not taken to the �logical conclusion� and very often, the poachers manage to get bail. To deal with the problems, a legal cell is being set up to ensure that the cases are properly followed up.

On the involvement of Forest Department personnel in rhino poaching, sources said that initial report from the Department indicated that a few personnel of the Department were trying to hide the carcasses of the rhinos killed by poachers to sweep the incidents under the carpet, which itself is an offence. But only the completion of the investigation by the police would reveal whether those personnel were involved with the activities of the poachers, sources added.