The year 2022 will go down in history for the Northeastern state of Assam for zero poaching cases in Kaziranga setting a record.
This is the first instance of zero rhino poaching since 1977.
Assam's Kaziranga National Park (KNP) - located in the floodplains of the Brahmaputra river - is the biggest habitat for one-horned rhinos globally and draws in visitors from across the globe.
Chief Minister Himanta Biswa Sarma, while interacting with reporters on the first day of 2023 on Sunday, apprised the people of this positive news.
GP Singh, Special Director General of Police (DGP) Law and Order, Assam, also shared data on Twitter which showed 2022 was the first year in decades that no incident of rhino poaching was reported in Assam.
The special DGP shared figures for rhino poaching in the state since the year 2000. The highest number of poaching, as per his shared data, was in 2013 and 2014 at 27 each.
In 2015 and 2016, the number of rhinos killed by poachers was 17 and 18, respectively, which subsequently declined to two in 2020 and 2021 and zero in 2022.
How severe is rhino poaching in Assam and how has the Northeast state been protecting the one-horned herbivore, responding to the question, Mr Singh said that the government led by Himanta Biswa Sarma adopted a zero-tolerance policy towards poaching.
"In his first cabinet meeting after taking over as CM, Himanta Biswa Sarma made his government's intent absolutely clear. It was well known that there would be zero tolerance towards any such incidents of poaching," Mr Singh said while talking to ANI.
He further said that a task force was constituted.
According to the data, since 2000, there have been close to 190 plus cases of Rhino poaching with a huge 27 cases being reported in 2013 alone.
He further said that apart from the constant push by both the state government as well as from the Union Home Ministry, leveraging the use of technology and coordinated effort helped in achieving this task, which sounded impossible to many.
"We focused on mapping the incidents of poaching and collected data and traced the history of poachers who had a track record including following their present activities. We also sensitised the stakeholders especially villagers, forest villagers, and those in buffer zones," Mr Singh explained.
The Special DGP further said, "Assam Police also coordinated with other police teams across states like Arunachal Pradesh, Nagaland, Manipur, and Kerala."
According to the Special DGP, use of modern systems and effective tools of communication and monitoring was of big help.
"We installed CCTV cameras on entry/exit routes including night vision CCTV cameras. Some other technology use includes wireless connectivity networks, movement sensors and extensive usage of drones and dog squads. Armed commandos of police and forest were deployed in core areas," he said adding that action was taken against any attempt to poach.
Briefing the data, as per the records, 58 people were arrested, 5 injured and 4 killed for trying to poach.
Kaziranga National Park spread over 430 square kilometers is home to more than 2200 Indian one-horned rhinoceros, approximately 2/3rd of their total world population. The park which also has a home elephant, wild water buffalo and swamp deer was declared a Tiger Reserve in 2006 after seeing a rise in the tiger population.
Kaziranga Park remains closed from May 1 to October 31 every year for visitors due to dry summers followed by the monsoon season.
Poaching of Rhinos was rampant in the past, which has now come down due to stringent surveillance and other elevated security arrangements being put in by the authorities.
To give a clear message to poachers that Rhino horns don't attach any medicinal or monetary value, the Assam government publicly burnt a stockpile of 2,479 horns in September 2022.