Security focus shifts to hills beyond Assam’s flooded Kaziranga
The escape of animals from the flooded Kaziranga National Park has made wildlife officials shift their focus to other forest reserves.india Updated: Jul 15, 2017 19:35 IST
The escape of most animals from the flooded Kaziranga National Park (KNP) has made wildlife officials shift their focus on two lesser known forest reserves – Dolamara and Parkuppahar – in central Assam’s Karbi Anglong district.
Every monsoon, floodwaters force rhinos, elephants and other animals out of Kaziranga to the hills of Karbi Anglong across National Highway 715 skirting KNP’s southern edge. This means sharing space with militants, some of whom moonlight as poachers.
Dolamara is the larger of the two forest reserves at an average elevation of 1,500 ft straddling about 1,000 sq km of the Karbi Anglong hills. But the Silingkhowa section of Parkuppahar has a more difficult terrain that suits militants on the run.
“The last case of poaching with the involvement of militants was in 2012 when four rhinos were killed. We cannot rule out a return of the rebels as poachers this time,” Joysing Bey, divisional forest officer of Karbi Anglong Range, told the Hindustan Times.
The police had in 2012 arrested S Timung, chief of the now-disbanded Karbi Longri North Cachar Hills Liberation Front, for illegal rhino horn trade after Karbi Anglong-based poachers spilled the beans.
The emergence of a new outfit – People’s Democratic Council of Karbi-Longri – backed by the National Socialist Council of Nagaland-Khaplang has made forest officials apprehensive.
Rhino horns are smuggled out via Nagaland, east of Karbi Anglong, to Myanmar and beyond. An average rhino horn weighing 2 kg fetches $350,000 in the grey market.
“The state police chief has in response to our request made the superintendents of police of Karbi Anglong and adjoining districts help with security in the hills. The hills beyond Kaziranga are being manned by 150 extra men including those from the Assam Police battalions,” forest minister Pramila Rani Brahma said.
A third of KNP’s 2,400 rhinos (2015 estimate) move to the safety of the Karbi Anglong hills during the monsoon. The animal can invite trouble when it ascends to the dense forests at 1,300-1,500 ft, not natural for an animal that prefers to graze in low-lying grasslands.
But the rhino and other animals risk being run over or maimed by speeding vehicles on NH715 before moving to the relative safety of the hills
“This is why we have, as per National Green Tribunal guidelines, limited vehicle speed on a 68km stretch of the highway skirting Kaziranga to 40 kmph. And within this stretch, time cards are being issued for slower speed for 28 km,” Kaziranga DFO Rohini Ballave Saikia said.
Till Wednesday morning, drivers of 15 vehicles were charged Rs 5000 each for over-speeding.