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Killing rhinos

 Deccan Herald, New Delhi, 16th February, 2013

Increasing cases of killin of rhinos by poachers in the Kaziranga national park in Assam are a matter of serious concern. While it is estimated that 20 animals were killed last year, eight killing have already been reported in two months this year. Considering that there are only over 2000 one horned rhinos left in the country, the increasing number of fatalities creates doubts about their survival. About 50 of them die because of natural causes. Some of them also drown during the monsoon when they try to leave the flood affected lower areas of the park to the highlands for safety.

Security in the park areas tends to relax during the flood season because personnel also need to be shifted. Recent reports that the threat from poachers is becoming very real at other times of the year too.

Kaziranga is considered to be a well protected park. Conservation efforts had even led to an increase in the number of rhinos there some years ago. But the present trend is ominous. The park authorities have said the rhino were killed outside the boundaries of the park. But it certainly is part of the responsibility of the authorities to keep the rhinos from straying and getting killed.

The state minister has seen a political conspiracy against him in the reports. Rather than evading the issue, what is needed is to strengthen the security arrangements and improve the infrastructure in the park. The park's boundaries should be well patrolled and the adjacent areas where the animals not only rhinos; but other too stray should also be closely watched. In fact, there is the need to expend the core area of the park further for logistical reason related to security. The adjoining Karbi Anglong hills which are a haven for poachers should be made part of the conservation territory.

Intelligence gathering is vital in preventing poaching.  There is also the need to increase the number of security personnel, and impart better training and provide modern weapons to them. There is criticism that many of them are not sufficiently  motivated. There is also the need to improve co-ordination between various department and authorities working in the area. if timely steps are not taken, the coming months will turn out to be a bad period for the rhinos.