Rahul Karmakar, The Hindu | June 5, 2021
The Reserve Forest has been a refuge for animals during floods as well as a haunt of extremists and poachers.
The Kaziranga National Park and Tiger Reserve has gained control of a green “gap” notified more than a century ago.
The 3,367-hectare Bagser Reserve Forest between the National Park and the hills of Karbi Anglong district was notified in July 1919. The green patch has for ages been an elevated, sustainable shelter for the one-horned rhino and other animals that flee Kaziranga during floods.
On the flip side, the reserve forest has also been a route for extremists and poachers. Hunters would often vanish into this “gap” beyond the jurisdiction of the park’s protection force.
On May 31, the Nagaon Territorial Division handed over Bagser to the Kaziranga Tiger Reserve to effectively check the movement of poachers and secure the flood-time animal shelter.
Nagaon is one of four districts that Kaziranga straddles. The others are Golaghat, Sonitpur and Biswanath, the last two on the northern bank of the Brahmaputra river.
“One can say Bagser was the final cog in the Kaziranga conservation wheel. We now have access to the natural highlands toward better conservation,” the Park’s field director P. Sivakumar said.
“Getting control of Bagser has been a 13-year wait,” he added.
The process of bringing Bagser under Kaziranga began in 2007 after the National Tiger Conservation Authority (NTCA) notified the National Park as a Tiger Reserve that now measures 1,302 sq. km.
“Bagser was a part of the tiger reserve but beyond the jurisdiction of the park authorities because it was being handled by a division that was not a part of Kaziranga. For all these years, the reserve forest was like a missing link of the Kaziranga conservation chain,” Assam-based environment activist Rohit Choudhury told The Hindu.
He had been nudging the Ministry of Environment, Forest and Climate Change for bringing the buffer areas of Kaziranga Tiger Reserve under the unified command of the National Park’s Field Director. In one of his letters in November 2020, he underlined the need for a tighter vigil in the reserve forest to dissuade extremists and poachers from using the reserve forest.
Assam’s Environment and Forests Department issued the order on May 29 for immediate transfer of control of Bagser to the Kaziranga authorities.
A week later, Kaziranga received the Conservation Assured Tiger Standards (CATS) accreditation following an assessment conducted by the NTCA in 27 Tiger Reserves across the country.
Three other Tiger Reserves in Assam — Manas, Nameri and Orang — were also accorded CATS accreditation toward “strengthening and improving management interventions for conservation of big cats”.