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Nepal model mulled against poachers

The Assam government will act on a proposal to follow Nepal's success story in preventing rhino poaching. Forest minister Pramila Rani Brahma today responded to a proposal of BJP legislator Padma Hazarika on sending a team of officials and experts from Assam to Nepal to know how the neighbouring country has achieved zero poaching success. Nepal has a rhino population of 645 and there has been no rhino poaching cases in 2014 and 2015.

She told the Assembly that the government would give serious thought to the proposal and do the needful. Kaziranga and several other national parks and wildlife sanctuaries in Assam have lost more than 200 rhinos to poachers since 2001. This development had gone against the ruling Congress in the last Assembly elections, as the BJP made it an election issue. Prime Minister Narendra Modi raked up the issue during election rallies in the state.

"Five rhinos have been killed since the new government took charge in May. Since then I have taken several steps to prevent rhino poaching under any circumstance. It is the top priority for me. But I cannot do it alone. I will need support, suggestions and expertise from everyone in the state to curb poaching," Brahma told the House during the budget session of the Assembly here this morning.

An article posted in the WWF Global website on May 2 this year said Nepal's zero poaching success is rooted in a co-ordinated national response. The effort is driven by the centre and implemented at the grassroots level. The measures include enhanced protection efforts within national parks and surrounding buffer zones, involving the use of new approaches, such as the highly effective Spatial Monitoring and Reporting Tool (SMART) patrolling.

Hazarika said he has been reading about Nepal's success in achieving zero poaching for the last two years. The state government should try and see how Nepal's success story could be replicated in Assam, he said. Earlier, responding to AGP legislator Pabindra Deka's concern about the massive racket of rhino poachers in the state, Pramila said the racket was deep-rooted, as a single rhino horn fetches Rs 2 crore to 3 crore in the international market. She said the government was also contemplating how to eliminate this.

As long as the market exists, poachers would continue to hunt rhinos, she added. Deka said there were reports that poachers reside in hotels, tourist lodges and resorts in and around Kaziranga in the guise of tourists. He demanded that the government must work out an effective mechanism to monitor poachers and their modus operandi.

According to the Rhino Task Force report of the National Tiger Conservation Authority, poaching is an organised crime involving national and international gangs that work in close coordination with one another. It has components of arms smuggling, money laundering, cross-border smuggling, terrorism and international illegal wildlife trade.

Bibhab Talukdar, the Asia coordinator of International Rhino Foundation, told The Telegraph in an email from Jakarta, "Nepal has been successful because of concerted efforts of all government agencies to curb rhino poaching that includes their army, police, department of national parks and wildlife. Their government focused on anti-poaching and arrest of criminals engaged in wildlife crime and were successful in putting them behind bars based on their laws." Talukdar has been working in various capacities as a part of efforts to save rhinos.

In Assam, the government should focus more on conviction of arrested poachers and smugglers rather than being satisfied with poacher arrests, he added. The arrest of poachers was just a beginning, and the ultimate aim was to convict them in the court of law, he added.

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