Poaching in Kaziranga on despite lockdown (State of Assam, India)

The Assam Tribune | April 13, 2020

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GUWAHATI: Even amid the lockdown, poachers are making repeated attempts to enter Kaziranga National Park and poach rhinos, keeping the forest guards on toes.

Admitting that poaching attempts have been continuing, park director P Shiv Kumar said there are at least four groups active around Kaziranga as of now. Two are reportedly active on the Kaziranga-Majuli stretch – one near Gohpur and the other at Jakhalabandha.

Last Tuesday, one group tried to enter the park from Gamiri near Gohpur. Forest guards had to fire several rounds to prevent the attempt.

Earlier, police, forest guards and locals apprehended the shooter of one such poacher group in the Kamarbandha area. Weapons and ammunition were seized from the shooter who hails from Pasighat. An accomplice was also later held.

Citing a section of media reports that China’s hunt for COVID-19 vaccine could boost trade of wildlife parts from the Northeast, conservationist, member of state wildlife board and Aaranyak CEO Dr Bibhab Kumar Talukdar took to social media to alert the Chief Minister and the Assam Police “on the emerging threats to the State’s wildlife”.

Recently, a leading international media outlet published an article giving details about a recent policy unveiled by the Chinese government which prescribes using Tan Re Quing, an injection containing bear bile, for the treatment of COVID-19 cases. The item features in a long list of recommended coronavirus treatments published on March 4 by China’s National Health Commission.

Another traditional medicine mentioned in the list for use against COVID-19 is Angong Niuhuang Wan used to treat fever and other diseases. It traditionally contains rhino horn, which is a banned item from global trade and under Chinese law.

Talukdar told The Assam Tribune that while in the country most of the citizens are trying to keep themselves at home due to the lockdown, it seems that wildlife hunters and smugglers are exploring every possibility to take advantage of the cessation of activity to attempt killing of wild animals.

“This has been established in the incidence held a couple of days back under Kamargaon police station in Golaghat when villagers rounded up a rhino poacher with arms and ammunition to forest and police officials. While other poachers managed to escape from the village, arrest of the poacher with arms and that too from Arunachal Pradesh reflects that these criminals are not sitting ideal at home. They are not only breaking the lockdown prevailing in the country, but also trying to kill wild animals at the instance of illegal demand in countries like China,” he said.

Talukdar strongly felt that all law enforcement agencies in Assam and also in Northeast Indian states need to be extra alert not only to control the COVID-19, but also to check attempts to kill wild animals for illegal trade.

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