[Assam] FASS prepares white paper on rhino poaching (The Sentinel, 19.05.2008)
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Mon May 19 11:21:04 IST 2008
FASS prepares white paper on rhino poaching
GUWAHATI, May 18: The NRIs (Assamese) in USA who have expressed deep concern on the increasing incidents of rhino poaching in Assam, have been preparing a white paper on the sensitive issue, disclosed Rajen Barua, the chief office-bearer of the Friends of Assam & Seven Sisters (FASS).
Barua also emphasized the necessity for more awareness among the people and their perennial cooperation to save the endangered one-horned rhinos in the region.
Volumes have been written and spoken about the ineffectiveness of the present measures to protect the rhinos in Kaziranga National Park and other sites. It is time to act now, Barua asserted.
The FASS was one of the few organizations which had consistently raised its voice for a credible and high level enquiry into the ongoing incidents of rhino killings and take disciplinary actions against the officials and individuals responsible for the ever increasing poaching cases.
The organization, in a statement issued from New York in March insisted that since the Assam Government had failed miserably in its duties, the administration of Kaziranga should be immediately placed under military rule for the time being with strict orders to treat the poachers as terrorists.
A Citizens Vigilance Committee (CVC) was also advocated by them to monitor the situation on a regular basis in the national parks of the State.
It may be mentioned here that the State Government, following the growing public outrages, had asked for a Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) probe into the killing of over 30 rhinos in different preserves of Assam since January 2007. Chief Minister Tarun Gogoi on May 2 declared that his Government favoured a CBI enquiry into the matter.
Earlier the civil societies and the advocacy groups of the region rigorously protested against the slaughtering of rhinos by poachers since the early part of 2008. But the authority concerned and the State Government strongly condemned the authority of Kaziranga, which had witnessed the loss of 26 rhinos to poachers since January 2007.
Recognized as a safe haven for the rhinos, Kaziranga gives shelter to almost two-thirds of the total population of one-horned rhinos on earth. A 1984 census showed that Kaziranga, which was declared a National Park in 1974, had 1,080 rhinos. The toll increased during 1975 to 1990, nearly 25 per year. However, 1991 statistics showed that rhino population had declined to 1,069. The census in 1999 provided more optimistic result as the number of rhinos soared to 1,552. The last census in 2006 revealed the number of rhinos in the park at 1,855.
The rhino-horn has great demand in international market as it is considered to contain aphrodisiac qualities. The heavy animal enjoys great sexual power, as its mating time is not less than 45 minutes (quite higher than any other animal). Many people believe that one can achieve sexual power with the help of rhino horns.
The horns are also believed to have medicinal values. The traditional Chinese medicine demands rhino horns, which is believed to have the power to cure fever and stomach ailments speedily. China, Taiwan, Thailand, South Korea and the Middle East are known to be huge markets for illegal trading of rhino horns. It fetches a few thousand US dollars per kilogram of horn in the international market.
The publics resentment against the Government for its failure to protect the rhinos was led by the All Assam Students Union (AASU), which carried out demonstrations throughout Assam on February 2. Later the AASU activists organized a citizens meet at Kohora in Kaziranga locality to continue hammering on the authority. The day-long meet on February 24, which was attended by various pressure groups, resolved to emphasize on a CBI probe to catch the real perpetrators behind rhino poaching.
The concern for the rhinos remained visible in Assam media through their editorials and the letters to the editor columns. Concerned citizens and the opposition political parties and journalists bodies also expressed their deep anguish against the unabated poaching of rhinos in Assam, particularly in Kaziranga.
Earlier, the Natures Beckon, an active environment NGO of the region, staged a protest rally on October 1 last, against the Forest Department of Assam. The director of Natures Beckon Soumyadeep Datta soon came out with a shocking revelation that the Forest Department of Assam was itself involved in the illegal trade of rhino horns.
We have authentic information that the Forest Department sold more than 300 rhino horns even after India adopted the Wildlife Protection Act in 1972. We are ready to provide all relevant information to CBI once it starts investigating. The statistics of the sold rhino horns can be placed each year as 29 (during 1971-72), 13 (1972-73), 19 (1973-74), 40 (1974-75), 18 (1975-76), 27 (1976-78), 42 (1977-78), 63 (1978-79), 63 (1978-79), 61 (1979-80), Datta claimed.
In India, poaching is a punishable offence with up to seven years imprisonment. India has been a member to the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species since 1976 and hence, in principle at least, is bound by all its efforts to eliminate International trade in wildlife, he added.
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