The Kaziranga National Park in Assam is home to the iconic one horned rhino whose numbers are estimated to be about 2401 as per a 2015 census.
The biggest problem which has plagued these rhinos for all these years is rampant poaching, mainly to acquire the animal’s horn, which has a huge demand in the global ivory black market.
As per official figures the hunters have killed a total of 143 rhinos in the last 12 years and about 70% of those deaths have taken place from 2012. This predictably resulted in appeals by animal conservationists for finding a solution to the problem.
As a result the rangers of Kaziranga started using sophisticated techniques like using night vision cameras, drones and erecting eight 90 foot towers fitted with cameras for live security stream. They also used combat techniques like stealth, stakeout and sustained surveillance to catch poachers, especially at night. The antiquated service rifles of the park guards were replaced by modern AK series rifles and a coordinated network with governmental agencies like the state police, was created for better security of the park.
All this seem to have borne fruit and as reported, only two rhinos have been killed this year which is the lowest figure since 2001. As per another report, poachers made 10 attempts to enter Kaziranga in the last 6 months out of which 8 were foiled. In the 2 instances where they managed to enter, the authorities arrested them before they (poachers) could carry out their hunting.
Thanks to the security efforts, a total of 48 hunters have been arrested by the authorities and one was killed. Some of the equipment used by these hunters include poisonous liquid which is applied on darts, inflatable rubber boat, tranquilliser and motorbikes.
The magnitude of the poaching problem in Kaziranga can be gauged by the fact that the team of Deben Borah, officer in-charge of Jakhalabandha police station has caught 260 poachers in 3 years.
The authorities’ efforts haven’t been limited to security measures but have also included providing alternative livelihood options to nearby villagers who earlier used to provide logistic support to these hunters.
This victory over poaching hasn’t meant that the authorities have let their guard down. They are aware that the hunters might also be upping their game. The price tag of about Rs 1 crore for rhino’s horns in the international market means that they won’t be giving up anytime soon.