Out: List of Kaziranga's most wanted

Guwahati, Jan. 18: Kaziranga National Park authorities have for the first time made public a list of 323 poachers.

Assam chief wildlife warden R.P. Agarwalla told The Telegraph that the whole idea of making the list public is to build "social pressure" so that the public knows who are indulging in such activities.

The list includes names of suspected, accused, arrested or wanted persons who have been found to be or suspected to be involved in poaching activities in Kaziranga National Park in the past few years.

"This is the first time that such a list has been prepared. The names have been received from various sources in the past two years," a senior park official told The Telegraph today.

Majority of the poachers are from Karbi Anglong and Sonitpur districts.

The official said the information has been gathered from various miscellaneous sources, including arrests, interrogations, mobile call records, and even through informers.

"Any person providing definite information about the above suspects or providing further details and names of associates would be suitably rewarded."

Apart from the names of poachers from various districts of Assam, the list includes a few from Nagaland and Mizoram too. Very soon, the plan is to have pictures of the poachers too.

"The list is not intended to target any particular community. But community leaders need to impress upon their members not to indulge in these kinds of activities. It is not the job of the forest department alone to curb poaching and everybody has to play their role," the official said.

Field director of Kaziranga M.K. Yadava in his report to Gauhati High Court last year has submitted that the pressure on Kaziranga is tremendous, as the rhinoceros population is very high and the entire boundary is very porous. "The northern side is surrounded by the Brahmaputra and its numerous islands/ saporis. There is a very large population of traditional fishing communities all along the river, some of whom may be potential fieldmen to poachers. The southern side of the park is also full of human habitation, making patrolling very difficult," the report stated, adding that largescale and continuous poaching would make the resident rhinoceros population unviable and prone to extinction, if the trend is not arrested.

Yadava said despite augmentation of forest staff and forces and increase in infrastructure, the poaching pressure has mounted like never before because of rise in rhino horn prices in the international market.

"It is very good to know that emphasis is being given to maintain a database of culprits involved in rhino poaching and other wildlife crimes. This database may be internally shared among the officials of rhino-bearing areas in Assam for updates and field action and lessen the mounting pressure from rhino poachers," wildlife conservationist Bibhab Talukdar told The Telegraph.

The World Heritage Site, which has the largest number of one-horned rhinos, has always taken the brunt of poaching and the figures are on the rise from 2012.

The International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN), classifying Kaziranga in the "significant concern" category for the first time, said while poaching is not a new phenomenon, there are phases of high and low levels. "The spurt in such incidents since 2012 is a cause for concern," the report said.

Yadava said it is not that the park staff have not done anything to curb poaching, adding that intense patrolling and diligent discharge of duty by the forest staff have yielded good results. In 2013, 71 poachers were arrested while five were killed. This apart, eight guns and rifles with two silencers were seized and Rs 13.2 lakh cash was recovered.

Last year, 48 poachers were arrested while 22 were killed. Two security personnel received bullet injuries in 2013 while several staff dodged bullets of poachers last year.

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