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Curse of the horns (rhinos of kaziranga)

Kaziranga is a title of a remarkable success story of conservation of the One Horned India Rhinoceros and other wild lives in the North East India. It is not only the homeland of the Great Indian One Horned Rhinoceros, but also provides shelter to a variety of wild lives.It is one of the significant natural habitat for in situ conservation of biological biodiversity of universal value. The values and criteria made Kaziranga National Park to get inscribed in the World Heritage Site List 1985. The Kaziranga National Park area consists of 429.93 Sq.Km. with an additional area of 429.40 Sq.Km. and situated in the two districts of Assam, namely Golaghat and Nagaon. The total area of the park within Nagaon district is 175 Sq.Km., out of which 135 Sq.Km. falls under Bagori Forest Range office and 40 Sq.Km. falls within Ghorakati Forest Range office.

Kaziranga National Park

A few centuries ago, the Indian one horned Rhinoceros ranged across the north Indian plains in the wetlands of the rivers Indus, Ganga, and Brahmaputra. Today this survivor from the prehistoric times is found only in pockets in the north eastern state of Assam and in Nepal. In Assam, their Rhino habitat is limited to just two national parks - Kaziranga and Manas.Kaziranga National Park is a birding paradise; the grasslands are a raptor country that can be seen on safari makes a remarkable experience.

Indian one Horned RhinocerosIndian one Horned Rhinoceros

Out of the early morning mists and tall grass of northeast India emerges a massive creature with a dinosaur-like face, having survived millions of years despite a curse literally on its head.As elephant-borne riders approach, the formidable hulk sniffs the air for danger, then resumes its breakfast.This is Kaziranga, refuge to more than 2,200 endangered Indian rhinoceros and one of the world's best-protected wildlife reserves.But even here, where rangers follow shoot-to-kill orders, poachers are laying siege to "Fortress Kaziranga," attempting to sheer off the animals' horns to supply a surge in demand for purported medicine in China that's pricier than gold. At least 18 rhino fell to poachers in and around the park in 2012, compared to 10 in all of India in 2011.Poaching of Rhinos Pitted against the poachers, some armed with battlefield rifles, are 152 anti-poaching camps staffed by more than 900 rangers, guards and other personnel almost one for every square kilometer of the reserve. These include a well-armed task force rushed in when the poaching erupted again early last year.Kaziranga also is ready to deploy drones and satellite surveillance to track the intruders. The rhino war is a bloody one on all counts. A number of guards have been killed along with 108 poachers since 1985 while 507 rhino have perished by gunfire, electrocution or spiked pits set by the poachers, according to the park.More than 50 poachers were arrested last year.

Poaching is not a new problem in the Kaziranga National Park in Assam. There have been spurts but there was never a single year when poaching stopped completely. It was only in 1977 that the Assam forest department did not record a single case of rhino poaching. N K Vasu who was the director of the Kaziranga park till March 15, 2013, says attaining a zero-poaching year is next to impossible. The department, which started maintaining poaching data from 1974the year Kaziranga became a national parksays in the first year, only three rhinos were killed. The problem began to compound in the eighties. Vivek Menon, who heads the Wildlife Trust of India, investigated poaching and trade of horns of the great Indian one-horned rhino in the 1990s. His report Under Siege: Poaching and protection of greater one horned Rhinos states that although poaching was prevalent in the 1960s, it was never a problem like it was in the 1980s and early 1990s. The report states that the number of rhinos poached between 1980 and 1993 was never below 23, with 49 being the highest in a single year in 1992. After 1997 there was a gradual decline in the number of rhinos hunted every year until 2007 when 16 rhinos were killed.Towards the end of March this year, the forest department completed a two-day census in Kaziranga which showed an increase of 39 rhinos in the past one year. The latest tally was one short of 2,330, as hours before the head-count a rhino was killed for its horn.The census timing was just not right, laments a park ranger. The best time to do the head count is after the first round of rains, sometime in April, he says. Generally, the tall elephant grass is set on fire in February. Once it rains, succulent grass shoots appear, enticing rhinos to eat them. Counting becomes much easier then, he adds.HIGHS AND LOWS

During the 1970s and 1980s, the preferred modus operandi used for poaching was capturing the rhino in a pit. The poachers gang would dig a pit and cover it with foliage on the dandi or the track of a rhino. The size of the pit would be just enough to hold an adult rhino with little room for movement. Sometimes the pit would be laid with bamboo spikes. Once the rhino fell into the pit, the poachers, camping near the site, would hack off the horn.Between 1980 and1985 some 120 rhinos were killed using pits. Although poaching with guns was prevalent at that time, it became the preferred choice of the poachers by the middle of 1985. The last known case of pit poaching in the Kaziranga National Park was in 2002. Rathin Barman, in-charge of the Wildlife Trust of Indias Centre for Wildlife Rehabilitation and Conservation in Kaziranga, says most of the rhinos die of bullet wounds from .303 rifles. To kill a rhino, the bullet has to hit one of the vital organs. Often shots fired from automatic rifles like AK 47 do not hit these organs, leaving the rhino injured but not dead, he says. Automatic weapons have been occasionally seized from poachers around the park and more recently during raids of the Assam police in September and October 2012.In the late 80s and early 90s, poachers used to electrocute rhinos using connections from high tension power lines running along the parks periphery. Eight rhinos were killed using this method.Over the years, the gun used by poachers has undergone major transformation. And the change has come through innovations at the local level. Well-trained in dismantling and reassembling weapons, poachers spend days buried underground at locations in and around the park. To ensure that guns do not make any noise, the poachers use locally available material like water pipes to fabricate sound suppressors.Although no case of tranquilising has been reported in Kaziranga, in 2007 two guns for sedating rhinos were recovered. One of the guns belonged the chief wildlife warden of Nagaland.

HUNTING WAYS

Despite the continuing threat to rhinos due to poaching for their valuable horns, population figures have been increasing in recent years.At the beginning of the 20th century there were 500,000 rhinos across Africa and Asia. In 1970 there were 70,000. Today, there are fewer than 29,000 rhinos surviving in the wild.Between 1970 and 1992, large-scale poaching caused a dramatic 96% collapse in numbers of the critically endangered black rhino. Shockingly, 95% of the rhino population has consequently been wiped out.After the poaching wars during the late 1980s and early 1990s, and up until the end of 2007, white rhino numbers had been increasing by around 9.5% a year, and by around 6% per year for black rhinos, thanks to persistent conservation efforts.

Rhino population figures

Societys Reaction

JORHAT: The state unit ofBharatiya Janata Party(BJP) had staged a mass protest in Kaziranga against the unabated poaching of rhinos atthe nationalpark over the last few months.The party's central general secretary, P Chandrasekhor, state unit presidentSarbananda Sonowal, former president Ranjit Dutta, MPRajen Gohain, MLA Prasanta Phukan and Ranjit Das also joined the programme along with hundreds of activists of their party.

BJP stir against rhino poaching in Kaziranga

A seven-member CBI team has arrived in Assam to probe the poaching of rhinos, an official said Wednesday.

The Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) team is camping at the Kohora range of Kaziranga National Park to collect details of selected poaching cases that will initially be taken up for investigation, sources said.

The agency has registered three cases related to poaching of rhinos that took place in July and September last year in Assam's Karbi Anglong and Nagaon districts.

It was alleged that in all the three cases, one-horned rhinos were killed using firearms, and body parts of the animals were taken away.CBI team reaches Kaziranga to probe rhino poaching

Authorities at Assam's Kaziranga National Park have deployed an Unmanned Aerial Vehicle or UAV, a very small aircraft with camera, to safeguard the one-horned rhino from poachers.

This is the first time aerial technology is being applied to protect wildlife.

An eye in the sky to help fight rhino poaching at Kaziranga

UAV

Our environment is such a thing, which we cannot afford to abuse. But environmental criminals are doing just that. And in abusing the environment, what they put at risk is the health and safety of all of us. Poachers today are mostly the gangs of highly organised, selective and effective killers of the countryside. But it is viewed by many people as an acceptable crime, or even as not being a crime at all.And therefore what is required on the part of our government is to frame out strategies and actions for wildlife conservation in today's context in order to protect India's long-term ecological security. Not only the government there must be a conscious effort by Media, NGOs and Educational Insti

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