Assam tiger reserves lack appropriate protection
Sunday, March 2, 2008 (Orang National Park, Assam)
Orang National Park is a comparatively smaller national park also one of the few ones named after a former PM, it is also called the Rajiv Gandhi National Park.
It represents many problems that national parks, wildlife sanctuaries particularly tiger habitat in Assam are facing, pressure of population outside the park, shortage of personnel inside the park and whatever personnel are there are de-motivated.
Assam also falls in the corridor of the illegal wildlife trade, the volume of which is one of the highest in the world. NDTV took a tour of the Orang National Park, which has a healthy tiger population to find out the threats the illusive tiger faces.
In the last five years, the density of population has only increased and this is one of the biggest problems that tiger habitat like Orang faces. Grazing of cattle, illegal encroachment happen all around the park.
The forest staff are at their wits end. In the past two years, five tigers have been killed in this park. Most of them by villagers not poachers.
”First the cattle problem needs to be solved. The villagers kill them. We cannot always be running after everyone. They need to send more guards. In some camps we do not even have any guards,” said Sharma and Ali Forest Guards.
Orang needs around 200 forest guards but has only 60. It is the same story across the state. It needs at least a thousand more forest guards to protect its wildlife.
Most of the forest guards are close to retirement and in the last 15 years no new guard has been recruited. Even their equipment are outdated and they have never been trained for the job.
”The basic support the government needs to give is to strengthen the protection regime and in order to strengthen it. We must think of putting young people as frontline staff in protected areas which the government hasn’t done in the last 15 years,” said Bibhab Talukdar, Secretary, Aranyaak.
Thanks to their location close to the border, the Northeastern states fall in the poaching route.
In the past year, Kaziranga which was thought to be the best-maintained park in the region has lost 24 rhinos to poachers. The tigers don’t stand a chance.
”The problem with tiger poaching is that nothing remains so your record shows that there hasn’t been any poaching” said Bibhab, Talukdar Secretary Aranyaak.
What has the government done to contain poaching?
”Lots of admin and political will is required. There’s lot of information available as to who are the buyers of rhino horn at least but there has been no effort to curb down these people,” said Bibhab, Talukdar Secretary Aranyaak.
People have been spotted walking freely in these parks, where no one can go without permission.
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