GUWAHATI: The Assam government, in collaboration with the Centre, has raised a special force to protect the one-horned rhinos of Kaziranga National Park.
After 43-weeks-long training, the passing out parade of 82 members of the “Special Rhino Protection Force” (SRPF) was held on Friday. The personnel included eight females.
Official sources said the personnel would be deployed to eight ranges of Kaziranga, which is a UNESCO World Heritage Site.
“Eighty-two personnel passed out today (Friday) after 43 weeks of rigorous commando training. This force has been raised at the initiative of NTCA for the conservation and protection of Assam’s pride, one-horned rhinos, in and around Kaziranga,” the sources said.
After witnessing the passing out parade, Forest Minister Parimal Suklabaidya said the personnel would be armed with sophisticated weapons so they could take on the poachers who also come from other states of the Northeast.
“We are confident that with the raising of the force, we will be able to rein in incidents of rhino poaching. We have plans to protect the rhinos of the other national parks in a similar manner,” he added.
Earlier, Chief Minister Sarbananda Sonowal said protecting the rhinos along with other wild animals had been a commitment of the state’s BJP-led coalition government. Stating that raising the SRPF is a step forward in protecting the rhinos, he said the state government would provide all assistance in empowering the force.
Given that the poachers often come armed with AK series rifles, providing sophisticated weapons to the forest guards has been a long-standing demand.
The rhino is killed for its horn which is considered by some people in the South East Asian countries as an aphrodisiac for both males and females. The horn, often smuggled through some neighbouring states of Assam, could fetch over Rs.1 crore in the international black market.
Over the past 19 years, over 200 rhinos have been killed by the poachers in Assam, mostly in the Kaziranga National Park.