Forest officials across the Northeast are allegedly providing poachers the ammunition to be the prowl again after a considerable lull.
The 100-year-old Kaziranga National Park, which was touted as the world’s biggest conservation success story, received a rude shock when poachers killed six one-horned rhinos in the past couple of months. What, however, was of more concern for wildlife activists was the capture of a poacher with a tranquilizer gun near the Park recently.
Park officials said the poacher confessed to have received the gun from a top forest official in adjoining Nagaland. “A case has been registered with the police in this connection and investigation is on,” said Assam’s chief wildlife warden MC Malakar.
“This hints at an unholy nexus between poachers and some forest officials in the region,” said wildlife activist Azam Siddiqui. He reminded the arrest of an IAS officer from Nagaland after the carcass of five rare monkeys were seized from his official jeep in Golaghat district more than a year back.
Kaziranga, incidentally, is close to Assam’s border with Nagaland, which is used by trans-border poachers from Myanmar and beyond. The rhino preserve and other wildlife habitats in Assam are also vulnerable to poachers using Arunachal Pradesh as the conduit. Two foreign poachers—one Chinese and one Myanamarese—were killed in the Namsai forest of Arunachal Pradesh a few years back.
According to Arunachal Pradesh principal chief conservator of forests KD Singh, poachers have also struck in wildlife preserves in the frontier state. Last Friday, a forest guard named PD Majhi and two unidentified poachers were killed in an encounter deep inside the Pakke Tiger Reserve in West Kameng district.
“The poachers might have sneaked in from Assam. There seems to be a network of poachers and timber-smugglers active in the region,” Singh said, adding vigil has been increased in Namdapha Tiger Reserve in Changlang district.
Pakke Wildlife Sanctuary, declared a tiger reserve in 2002, is home to Royal Bengal Tiger, common leopard and clouded leopard. A census in 2004 had put the number of tigers in the sanctuary at 12. Tigers are poached for their pelts, teeth, bones and other organs, which the Chinese believe have medicinal values.
“The Pakke encounter shows poachers in the region have tigers in their sight besides rhinos and elephants,” said Siddiqui. Last week, a 1.8 kg piece of ivory was seized from the cargo section of a private airline at the LGBI Airport here.