“We heard gunshots from the Pahumari anti-poaching area. A group of forest guards launched an operation, but the poachers managed to flee towards the hills of Karbi Anglong. No one has been arrested,” a divisional forest officer in Kaziranga told a reporter just over a week ago, adding, “A rhino was killed that night and poachers cut off its horn. But our staff failed to locate the animal due to the darkness.” With the rhino horn trade flourishing in Assam, according to reports, poachers in league with militants have taken to equipping and training villagers to use AK 47 rifles.
Swati Hingorani, Assistant Editor, Sanctuary Asia informs us, “Our forest rangers in Kaziranga take on armed poachers on a daily basis, risking life and limb to protect one of India’s most vital landscapes. Sending them in without the proper equipment and training is a death sentence and we must rally behind them to ensure they are given what they need to tackle poachers.”
Consequently, as the magazine’s editor, environment conservationist Bittu Sahgal points out, “This endangered animal, the pride of India, could disappear in a decade. Fighting rhino poachers amounts to fighting militants who profit from the illegal trade in rhino horns, ivory and tiger bones. Quite apart from this, protecting Kaziranga and its rhinos is a survival imperative for India. The floodplains of the Kaziranga feed the neighbouring states and store and sequester carbon, helping mitigate the worst impact of climate change.”
Worried about the approaching monsoon, Sahgal points out, “Rhinos marooned on highlands are sitting targets for poachers and many succumbed to monsoon flooding last year.” Sahgal says supporting our rangers is the need of the hour. “They desperately need more support — better equipment and mobility, sophisticated communication equipment, boats and night-vision glasses. They also need to be trained in forensics so that evidence collected can be converted into convictions.”
Since Dr Manmohan Singh is the Rajya Sabha MP from Assam, Sahgal and the Sanctuary Asia team as well as Avaaz campaigners intend to blow horns for the rhino outside the PM’s office. If 50,000 of you sign this petition, Sahgal will personally join others to blow a horn in New Delhi outside the PM’s house to request him to act to save the rhinos.
Play your part by signing an online petition.