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The Sleepless Sentinel

Pachyderms are under serious survival threat
Rhino poaching on the rise in West Bengal!

Once again, a number of Rhino poaching incidents were reported from North Bengal. During the last six months, at least six Rhinos were poached from both Jaldapara and Gorumara Wildlife Sanctuary. The situation is no less than a nightmare to the conservationists because of the endangered status of the specie. Already three out of five Rhino sub-species have been classified as critically endangered. Rhino poaching was rampant till 2004. 2005-06 saw a considerable decline in rhino poaching and by 2006 it became almost nil, apart from few seizure incidents, no poaching incidents were reported till early 2014. But during the last six months, six poaching incidents were reported from Gorumara National Park (Dhupjhora) and Jaldapara (Shishamara, Titli, Kodalbosti, Moiradanga).

In west Bengal, Jaldapara holds highest number of Rhino population with more than 200 in number followed by Gorumara National Park,which is considered the second Rhino home of the state with a very small population of around 40 only. In Jaldapara, rhino concentrated beats are Malongi, Sisamara, Moiradanga, Shildorsa followed by Hollong, Konjainagar, Hasimara, Chilapata, Banniya, Kodalbasti and CC line which are all targeted by the poachers in recent times as reported. The areas where the poaching takes place are remote and surrounded with dense forest making it nearly impossible to save them without proper patrolling. On top of it, the recent decision to allocate forest related funds through treasury has become much of a problem whether it comes to patrolling or the much needed anti-poaching management. Moreover, dearth of frontline staffs as DRFR, Forest Guard, Mahout, Patawala, and Bon- Shramik has provided the poachers an easy access to the forest to track down and kill Rhinos using high tech instruments. There are at present more than 2000 vacancies in forest department alone, which the government failed to fill due to the state’s poor financial condition.

The wildlife (protection) act 1972 was enacted with the objective of effectively controlling poaching and illegal trade. Offence related to commerce in trophies, animals articles etc. derived from certain animals attracts a term of imprisonment up to five years and/or a fine up to Rs. 25,000/-. In 2007, Ratiram Sharma was arrested and sent to prison for five years who has more than hundred poaching cases to his name.

An all rounded effort is required to curb the poaching menace through anti- poaching measures, strengthening people’s participation in conservation through participatory forest management, network building and adequate motivation to the field officers and staffs etc. or else this mega herbivore of riverine grassland will soon become a thing of the past.

Recovery of Rhino body parts from the year 2002 to 2010:

  2002-03 2005-06 2008-09 2009-10
Rhino horn 03pc 01pc 01pc 02pc
Rhino skin - 16kg - -
Rhino hoof - - 02pc -
Jaw of rhino - - 01pc -

As wildlife expert Samik Gupta says “If this present trend continues, I am afraid that there will not be a single rhino in Duar’s forests beyond 2020”