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Pobitora steps up guard to thwart poachers

By Sivashis thakur

GUWAHATI, Oct 19 - With the calm of the serene Pobitora grasslands shattered by poachers' bullets after a lull of over five years, the forest authorities have been sent into a tizzy as they are desperately trying to augment security arrangements and intelligence gathering in the tiny wildlife sanctuary that boasts of a very high concentration of the rhino.

The last incident of poaching in Pobitora was in February 2006 but that enviable record now stands blemished with the death of two rhinos in less than five months - the latest casualty taking place on October 14.

While forest authorities are reluctant to admit any complacency gripping the sanctuary management in view of its zero-poaching record over a long period, the fact is that poachers have been able to operate with much dexterity and outwit the forest staff in quick succession.

�Pobitora had an untarnished record for over five years and the recent poaching cases have definitely come as a rude jolt to us. But we are reorienting our anti-poaching strategy including intelligence gathering so that the problem areas can be addressed immediately," a forest official said.

The official said that apart from intensifying patrolling, including night vigilance, investigations were progressing to get to the roots of the recent poaching. "While Pobitora has always enjoyed support and cooperation of the nearby villagers, possibilities are there about involvement of a few local anti-social elements in the recent cases," he said, adding that the arrest of a couple of persons together with a rhino horn in Morigaon on Sunday was expected to throw much light on the modus operandi of the poaching gang.

The small area of Pobitora (38.81 sq km) and the surrounding human settlements have always acted to the sanctuary's advantage when it comes to checking poaching. However, the small area and the large rhino population (84 as per 2009 census) also mean that the sanctuary has mounting constraints of space and food for the rhinos.

"Rhinos straying out of the sanctuary have been a major headache for us but here, too, the local people have been very cooperative. They always lend a helping hand to us in keeping track of the straying rhinos," the official said.

Wildlife lovers, however, feel that the Forest Department needs to pull up its socks and do more basking on Pobitora's past record to ensure a secure future for its flagship species - the rhino.

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Pobitora steps up guard to thwart poachers

GUWAHATI, Oct 19 - With the calm of the serene Pobitora grasslands shattered by poachers' bullets after a lull of over five years, the forest authorities have been sent into a tizzy as they are desperately trying to augment security arrangements and intelligence gathering in the tiny wildlife sanctuary that boasts of a very high concentration of the rhino.

The last incident of poaching in Pobitora was in February 2006 but that enviable record now stands blemished with the death of two rhinos in less than five months - the latest casualty taking place on October 14.

While forest authorities are reluctant to admit any complacency gripping the sanctuary management in view of its zero-poaching record over a long period, the fact is that poachers have been able to operate with much dexterity and outwit the forest staff in quick succession.

�Pobitora had an untarnished record for over five years and the recent poaching cases have definitely come as a rude jolt to us. But we are reorienting our anti-poaching strategy including intelligence gathering so that the problem areas can be addressed immediately," a forest official said.

The official said that apart from intensifying patrolling, including night vigilance, investigations were progressing to get to the roots of the recent poaching. "While Pobitora has always enjoyed support and cooperation of the nearby villagers, possibilities are there about involvement of a few local anti-social elements in the recent cases," he said, adding that the arrest of a couple of persons together with a rhino horn in Morigaon on Sunday was expected to throw much light on the modus operandi of the poaching gang.

The small area of Pobitora (38.81 sq km) and the surrounding human settlements have always acted to the sanctuary's advantage when it comes to checking poaching. However, the small area and the large rhino population (84 as per 2009 census) also mean that the sanctuary has mounting constraints of space and food for the rhinos.

"Rhinos straying out of the sanctuary have been a major headache for us but here, too, the local people have been very cooperative. They always lend a helping hand to us in keeping track of the straying rhinos," the official said.

Wildlife lovers, however, feel that the Forest Department needs to pull up its socks and do more basking on Pobitora's past record to ensure a secure future for its flagship species - the rhino.