Assam: Despite all government assurances and efforts, India's best known national park still remains vulnerable to poaching. Around 17 rhinos have been killed in the last four months in Kaziranga.
"The increased number of poaching is definitely a concern particularly last year two years after floods. The reason is the organised poaching groups, the demand in the international market and some local issues here and there" Kaziranga National Park Director NK Vasu said.
The lure to kill is magnetic, sources confirmed that currently a horn fetches Rs 1 crore in the international market. Increasingly sharp shooters are being employed and sophisticated weapons are used regularly for killing rhinos. There are 2,329 rhinos inside the 430 square kilometer area in UNESCO World Heritage site. However, all the conservation success takes a backseat in the face of rhino killings.
Apurba Deka a forest guard for the last 27 years in the park said, "We try our best to protect the animal. Earlier we didn't have proper weapons. They have given some rifles but we need more powerful weapons. Importantly we need more people on the ground."
Three to four forest guards with basic facilities like a 303 or a 315 rifle and a wireless receiver are expected to ensure that there is no poaching. They do this, round the clock, round the year and it requires superhuman effort and despite all policy changes and policy promises, it is the foot soldiers of Kaziranga, the ones who actually prevent poaching are in desperate need of more attention.
"We have 152 anti-poaching camps. As far as the basic requirement of the camps is concerned, I think, we are meeting those requirements. It is always possible that there is scope for improvement and I think government is taking all care. Now we have increased the frontline staff strength, 500 more coming in from the Assam Protection Force with SLRs," NK Vasu said.
Monsoon makes Kaziranga vulnerable to poaching. Animals cross the park towards the north bank of the Brahmaputra and often are killed there.
"We will need proper boats. Else it will be difficult to reach some places. I have to ensure my area is poaching free," Kaziranga forest guard Prashanto Roy said.
As unmanned aerial vehicles, wait for the ministry of defence nod to fly over the park and the CBI probes poaching rackets, for the forest guards there is hardly any time in hand, as they walk on trying to protect the park they love.