KOHORA, Oct 21 � A positive change in the young poachers of yesteryears can be seen today after they have decided to give up poaching activities and instead work towards conservation and protection of wildlife in Kaziranga National Park.
According to a highly placed sources, these poachers, who live in nearby villages located in the hills of Karbi Anglong Autonomous Council, are used by some gang of poachers coming from Nagaland, Manipur and Mizoram as their logistical support and get their work done by spending less amount of money. In fact the poachers from outside the state do stay in those Karbi villages for two to three nights and after completing their task return to their respective places only to facilitate the smooth disposal of rhino horns to the countries like Hong Kong , China, Thailand, Burma, some Arab countries, etc., where these rhino horns are used to prepare traditional medicine as well as knife cover and showcase piece. Each horn brings about Rs 8 to 10 lakh or even more depending on the weight. This has been the modus operandi of this organised gang of poachers since last couple of years.
The poaching activity was quite high during the period from 1989 to 1992 as well as in 1995 in Kaziranga National Park. Poachers used to put sharp needle-like structure made of bamboo in a big pit near �dundi� (the place where the rhinos regularly come to release their excreta). The rhinos without sensing any kind of danger lying ahead, get killed when bamboo made needle penetrate their neck. But later the situation could be controlled by some dedicated forest staff headed by the then Director NK Vasu and then Range officer DD Boro by motivating the local people to inform the forest department as and when they come across any such incidents related to poaching of rhino and other wildlife in Kaziranga National Park. The situation again turned alarming during the month of January in 2008 when a female rhino was severely injured by some poachers with the help of an axe behind the factory of Methoni TE near Kohora. It is to be noted that poachers were chasing the female rhino and her calf right from the forest of Kaziranga and unfortunately the rhino got stuck in the mud and was unable to move further. Taking advantage of the situation, the poachers severed the horn and in the process the rhino bled profusely and later succumbed to the injuries. Though the park authority tried its best to save the rhino with the help of many veterinary doctors, it could not succeed in its efforts.
After the said incident a lot of hue and cry was raised by different sections of people condemning the brutal attack on the female rhino by poachers not only from India but also from other countries as well. This had put the Forest Department of Assam under pressure. Thereafter Kaziranga National Park authority has been keeping round-the-clock vigil. There have been even allegations that some of the forest people do not maintain any cordial relation with local people and the poachers take the advantage of the situation.
The Assam Government had to transfer the then DFO of Kaziranga B Sharma and bring back the present DFO DD Gogoi. Since then the situation has improved gradually with DFO Gogoi taking special initiatives to improve the relationship with local people. A lot of motivational programmes were conducted in the fringe villages to persuade the local youth to give up poaching of rhino in Kaziranga as well as stop giving shelter to poachers coming from outside Assam.
In Burapahar itself under Ghorakhati Range of Kaziranga National Park seven poachers have surrendered in 2008 followed by five in 2009 in the same range. In Bongkuwal area also near Kaziranga about seven poachers have surrendered recently and deposited hand made guns which is a good sign towards the conservation of Kaziranga. The initiative was taken by NGOs called Bhoomi and Rhino Jagaran Manch which had been persuading those poachers to surrender since 5-6 months back. Director of Kaziranga National Park Surajit Dutta said that the selfless effort made by those organisations to convince the poachers to come to mainstream is really a praiseworthy. Similarly, on September 24 one more poacher had surrendered before the Range officer of Burapahar (Ghorakhati) range. According to sources, some 2 to 3 more poachers are likely to surrender in the coming days. Now the poachers� gang, coming from Nagaland, Manipur, etc. are facing trouble since their earlier logistical support is not available now. This had considerably reduced the poaching activities in recent days, the sources added. They went on to say that the Forest department is helping those seven surrendered poachers by forming them a self-help group and the department is thinking of giving some training related to capacity building to them. Uttam Saikia of Bhoomi said that some packages should be introduced by government like the one introduced for the surrendered ULFA so that more and more poachers come forward to surrender. He said that they are motivating the surrendered poachers to go for agricultural farming as well as dairy production for their livelihood. Concerned agencies will help them initially. DFO D D Gogoi said that the idea to give training is to facilitate them for self employment. This will help them a lot. Agencies like DRDA of district administration can also come forward to help those surrendered poachers. If the things go on smoothly with regards to self- employment of surrendered poachers then naturally poaching problem will come to an end.