Unmanned aircraft to keep an eye on Kaziranga

By Prasanta Mazumdar | Place: GUWAHATI | Agency: DNA

The Centre will give an ‘unmanned aircraft’ to Assam for better surveillance of the Kaziranga National Park. Union minister of environment and forests Jayanthi Natarajan announced this here on Wednesday after reviewing the situation in the park following the devastating floods and recent incidents of rhino poaching.

“It was decided at a meeting that we had with the minister that the Centre will give us an unmanned aircraft for better surveillance of the park,” Assam’s forest minister Rockeybul Hussain told DNA. He added: “The Centre will also allocate Rs1 crore for infrastructural development at the park”.

The Union minister’s visit comes amid an alarming spurt in poaching of one-horned rhinos that sparked off angry protests across the state. At least 39 rhinos have died — 16 killed by the poachers —in the park so far this year, prompting the environment ministry to order a probe into the killings. In a couple of incidents, the poachers sawed off the horns even while the animals were alive.

Natarajan expressed her deep concern over such incidents. She assured the locals and NGOs during her meeting with them that efforts were being made to thwart attacks on the animal. As part of the security initiatives, she said the strength of the frontline staff would be increased. Nine speed boats, which the ministry committed for the park, will help officials to keep an eye on the rhinos during floods. The rhinos fall prey to bullets when they stray out the park in search of food during floods.

It was decided that some buffer zones will be created on animal corridors to curb human-animal conflicts. Natarajan suggested building of highlands where the animals could take shelter during floods. As the animals often get run over by vehicles while trying to cross an adjacent highway, she suggested the construction of a flyover. Natarajan said the setting up of the 152 anti-poaching camps would help curb poaching.

Chief minister Tarun Gogoi, who accompanied Natarajan, said his government would go hard at the poachers. He dismissed allegations about the settlement of illegal Bangladeshi migrants in park areas.