Rhino poaching in Assam: challenges and opportunities

Esmond Martin, Bibhab Kumar Talukdar, Lucy Vigne

Abstract


Kaziranga National Park (NP) in Assam, India holds about 71% of the world’s wild population of the greater one-horned rhino. It was therefore a shock to conservationists when they learned that in 2007 about 20 animals were poached, a four-fold increase compared with the previous six years’ annual average. We analyse the reasons for this surge, which included the hasty choice in the change of top officials in Kaziranga, many vacancies in frontline staff who are needed to oversee the protection regime of Kaziranga day and night, and a shortage of funds for intelligence gathering. In Orang NP there was heavy poaching in 2008. New poachers entered the Park and the under-staffed frontline forest guards were not equipped to fight them. In contrast, there were no rhinos poached in Pabitora Wildlife Sanctuary (WLS) in either 2007 or 2008. This was because of a very close relationship between its staff and the local villagers.

We recommend ways to improve the protection of Assam’s rhinos. These include how best to deter rhino poachers, especially with effective court cases, the urgent need to crack down on the rhino horn trade network that is based in Dimapur, Nagaland, and the importance of further strengthening the relationships between the Forest Department and the local people around rhino protected areas.

Keywords


Indian rhino, poaching, threats, horn stock, budge

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