Death of a rhino

Poaching in rhino has shown an alarming trend. Twenty-one rhinos were murdered in 2005 alone. As recently as Dec. 5, a rhino in Chitwan was found with bullet injuries. This incident is a clear proof of the thriving trade in wildlife parts. More disturbing is the use of sophisticated weapons which only the rangers can counter. But the reduction in the number of security posts in Chitwan National Park has, it appears, made the poachers’ job easier. This probably explains why the Supreme Court had to issue an interim order for the restoration of security posts.

The anti-poaching squad must augment its intelligence network and logistics. The frequency of long-range patrols of security personnel and conservation officials will have to be increased and made more business-like. But the recent Cabinet decision to release nine people detained in Chitwan jail on poaching charges constitutes a huge debilitating blow to those involved in conservation effort. There is also a dire need to bust the widely feared nexus between smugglers and conservation operatives. It is not for nothing that the rhino population is decreasing despite tens of crores invested in their survival and growth. The same logic applies to the other highly prized faunas whose body parts fetch a fairly handsome price in the local and international markets. The Maoists’ interest in lending a helping hand in checking rhino poaching is a worthy gesture, but only a long-term, determined conservation effort along with a dedicated staff and improved surveillance system can make a difference.