NEW DELHI, March 21 - The Union Ministry of Environment and Forest today claimed that rhino poaching has gone down with the current year witnessing poaching of only one rhino in Assam.
In a statement in the Lok Sabha, Minister of State for Environment and Forest Anil Madhav Dave said poaching of rhinoceros in the country, including in Kaziranga Tiger Reserve, has gone down.
There have been instances of poaching of rhinoceros in Kaziranga National Park (KNP) besides report of sale of their horns clandestinely in the international market. The number of rhinoceros poached in Kaziranga during the last three years has gone down from 27 in 2014 to 18 in 2016. In 2015, 17 rhinos were poached in KNP.
Under the ongoing Centrally-sponsored scheme of Project Tiger, Central assistance is provided to Assam for Kaziranga, which includes support for protection infrastructure, 24x7 e-surveillance, deployment of local workforce, support for purchase of sophisticated weapons, constitution of the Special Tiger Protection Force for use in KNP.
While, intelligence inputs are provided to the State by the Wildlife Crime Control Bureau, Government of India, besides coordination with other security agencies, the Assam Government has taken a number of steps to strengthen rhino protection.
These include recruitment of 423 number of Assam Forest Protection Force personnel equipped with arms, 175 armed home guards, besides the regular forest staff, enhancing punishment for offenders through an amendment to the Wildlife (Protection) Act, 1972 (Assam amendment, 2009), empowering the forest staff to use firearms while providing immunity from prosecution without prior sanction.
For developing cooperation among fringe villagers around Kaziranga National Park and curbing rhino poaching, 38 eco-development committees have been registered through which development work in the villages are also being taken up. A Special Task Force (STF) headed by an additional director general of police has also been constituted by the Government of Assam to curb rhino poaching in KNP where the number of anti-poaching camps has also been increased to ensure effective surveillance.
Altogether 204 offenders have been arrested in Assam during the last three years. The Government of Assam has also constituted fast track court for speedy disposal of wildlife cases including rhinoceros.