Between Flood Waters and a Poacher’s Gun

by Sandesh Kadur
Sandesh Kadur

Chosen as Picture of the Week

To prevent poaching of flood displaced rhinos, the Assam forest department has been building a strong intelligence network amongst villages at the fringe of Kaziranga as well as setting up of 10 more anti-poaching camps.

We were in Kaziranga to document the July 2012 floods. Rhinos escaping the rising waters of the Brahmaputra, seek shelter in the Karbi Hills to the South. This is where poachers lie in wait.

We saw this poached rhino in a pool of blood, with its horn cut off. The forest department estimates that during floods, about 100 rhinos try to escape to fringe areas like Haldibari, Kanchanjuri, and Panbari. The department attempts to round up and drive back rhinos towards the flooded park. Still, four rhinos had been poached in different parts of the reserve during our time there. This compares to about 14 rhinos (mostly old and sick ones) that had fallen prey to the rising waters.

There has been evidence that militant groups are getting involved in the poaching of animals in Karbi Anglong. Building a strong intelligence network through the villagers living at the fringe of the park has become the top priority of the forest department. Measures to prevent poaching of flood displaced animals included the setting up of 10 more anti-poaching camps, and an addition of about 100 guards from other reserves. Nevertheless, this year at-least 12 rhinos have been lost to poachers, and about 19 to floods. The poaching casualties numbered 9 and 7 in the previous two calendar years.

Editor’s note (Sep 26 2012): A day after this photo post featured on Conservation India, newspapers carried the story of another flood displaced female rhino that fell victim to poacher’s bullets in Karbi Anglong during the early hours of dawn. Though the rhino survived, its horn was found chopped off. Forest guards had been tracking the rhino until late night. It is a striking point that poachers were able to operate in such close vicinity of trackers and guards. Here is the article in The Hindu.

Update on Sep 27 2012: Two more rhinos were poached within two days of the first incident. Here is the story on IBNLive.

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  1. Sangeetha  Anand

    Seems like we need to improvise and adopt more smart technologies and process to tackle these street smart poachers. Our guards needs to be better trained and equipped to handle these tasks.

  2. Swapna Sarit  Khuntia

    This is extremely disturbing and sad to know that we have failed miserably in our efforts to protect the majestic rhinos. In a country like ours where every other day there is fight between people for space, there is little regard for these hapless animals.
    As the floods in Assam are a regular affair almost every year, the state govt. and even the central govt. environment ministry should have concrete plans to ensure proper relocation of these animals and their safety during floods. They too are equally important or else we will have a day when the Rhinos will no more be visible in the landscape of Kaziranga