This Article is From Feb 04, 2013

Assam asks Centre for CBI investigation into rhino poaching

Guwahati: The Assam government has asked the Centre to order a CBI probe into the rising incidents of rhinoceros poaching in Kaziranga National Park and other places of the state. The decision was taken after noticing increase in instances of rhino poaching, said Chief Minister Tarun Gogoi. In 2012, 40 rhinos were poached across Assam.

"There may be a political conspiracy behind the killings. This and the involvement of some insurgent elements, forest department personnel or others with poachers will be unearthed by the CBI probe," said Mr Gogoi.

In the last week alone, seven rhinos have lost their lives to poachers, their horns severed and taken away. It's an alarming trend at one of Assam's, and India's, biggest national parks. Most of the animals poached are near the Karbi-Anglong district in upper Assam, considered a safe haven for poachers.

In a major crackdown on Thursday, the forest department had suspended two officers, issued show-cause two others and removed three home guards for 'dereliction of duty' following the killing of two rhinos. One person has been detained for questioning.

The state government has also increased patrolling at the park and placed commandos with sophisticated weapons to help the staff protect rhinos. The Central government too has assured that it will provide unmanned choppers for surveillance.

"I cannot exactly say but yes, AK series weapons are used. They have been poaching exclusively in western range - the Burapahar Range. They have not been able to penetrate into the river front. We are looking into it," said N K Basu, Director, Kaziranga National Park.

What is even more worrying is the trend of poaching of the rhinoceros across Assam in 2012.

According to the latest census by the government, there are about 2300 rhinos in two of Assam's national parks, including Kaziranga. Alarmingly, last year, one rhino was poached every five days.

The activists, however, slam the government officials.

"Yes, we have being hearing about CBI enquiry since 2007 but nothing has happened. If the officials are doing work at optimum level there is no need for CBI enquiry," said Bibhab Talukdar, an animal rights activist.

Though the efforts are on to track known poachers in the region, at the moment, these have not been enough to stop these animals from being mercilessly killed.

(With inputs from PTI)