Under pressure, Gogoi to augment rhino security

Last Updated: Mon, Oct 15, 2012 13:40 hrs

Guwahati, Oct 15 (IANS) Concerned at the deaths of rhinos in the state due to floods and poaching, Assam Chief Minister Tarun Gogoi Monday said the government would chalk out a strategy to deal with the situation.

The government has also decided to send another contingent of the elite Assam Forest Protection Force (AFPF) to the famed Kaziranga National Park Tuesday. The chief minister and state Forest Minister Rockybul Hussain will flag off the contingent Tuesday.

At a function Tuesday, Gogoi will also give self-loading rifles (SLRs) to personnel of the AFPF and the extra force to be deployed at Kaziranga.

"A total of 42 rhinos died in Kaziranga National Park in Assam this year. of these, 15 were killed by poachers and 27 died due to floods," said Gogoi, while interacting with reporters at his residence Monday.

"We are concerned over the spate of poaching incidents within protected areas. We are planning to chalk out a strategy to minimise poaching of rhinos and other wildlife in protected areas," he said.

The Gogoi government came under severe pressure from several quarters after reports of unabated poaching of the famous one-horned rhino hit national headlines over the past month.

The state government earlier this month sent a 50-member team of the AFPF to the national park.

The chief minister had also announced that the government would set up a State Wildlife Crime Control Bureau (SWCCB) on the lines of the Wildlife Crime Control Bureau (WCCB).

The recent spate of rhino killings has forced the state government to order a CBI probe into all cases of rhino poaching that occurred over the past three years.

The Assam government had also deployed the army and central para military forces in areas adjoining the national park to foil poachers in the vicinity of the park, outside protected areas.

Forest officials link the rise in rhino killings to the soaring prices of rhino horns in China, Vietnam, Cambodia and Thailand, where these horns are used in traditional medicines and as an aphrodisiac. Rhino horns have no bony core - they are made of keratin, the protein that is also the key component of hair and nails.

"The soaring prices of the rhino horns in the international market and their scarcity have made militant outfits in the region take an interest in smuggling rhino horns," said an official, who maintained that militant groups have been directly linked to all recent rhino poachings in and around Kaziranga National Park.

More from Sify: