GUWAHATI: With nearly half of the Kaziranga National Park in Assam under water again this flood season, and local authorities are having to save animals from twin threats: flood waters and people out to kill them for meat as they retreat to higher land.
This happens every year. Flood-besieged animals fall prey to tribesmen in Karbi Anglong who hunt them for meat. Forest minister Pramila Rani Brahma told New Indian Express, “Last year, a large number of animals were killed for meat.”
This year, the Assam forest department is using three devices to thwart flood-time poachers. They have set up village defence parties (VDPs) to protect animals, and brought in tea estate workers to help the forest rangers. And they are using drones to keep a watch on animals as they retreat higher and higher.
Kaziranga authorities said the move is paying off. “The VDPs work round the clock. They not only protect the animals, they give us useful inputs about poachers,” said park official Satyendra Prasad Singh.
Singh said there have been no deaths of animals in the sanctuary in this year’s floods as of Thursday. Indeed, three deer were run over by vehicles on a highway. And a train mowed down a wild elephant as it was trying to cross a railway track in north Lakhimpur district, a forest official said.
Patrolling has been increased to prevent opportunistic poachers and rangers have been requisitioned from other forest divisions.
The floods have been forecast to get grimmer. The India Meteorological Department has predicted heavy to very heavy rainfall in the next 48 hours.
An estimated 4.25 lakh people in 17 districts of Assam have been affected in this first chapter of the annual deluge in Assam. The toll so far stands at 24.