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SOS Rhino : In the News : Power lines turn poachers’ weapons

Power lines turn poachers’ weapons


The Telegraph
Calcutta, India

Jorhat, Feb. 5: It is a “high-voltage” power game that is being played in the wilds to poach rhinos.

High-tension power lines passing through Kaziranga National Park has become a favourite “weapon” for poachers and a nightmare for the authorities at the home of the one-horned rhinoceros.

While the poachers are drawing high-voltage current by connecting wires to the cables passing through the park, forest guards are forced to patrol the 10-odd km of power lines passing through the park.

In the latest incident on Thursday night, forest guards recovered wires connected to the high-tension cables near Hatikhuli in the park’s Kahora range. Two poachers were arrested in this connection but two others managed to escape.

Divisional forest officer of the national park, Utpal Bora, told this correspondent that the forest guards were able to detect the cables after they heard a massive sound. The wires were loosely connected to the high-tension cables above.

“When our guards went to the place, they recovered the wires and spotted four poachers waiting there for the kill,” Bora said.

The park official said poachers have been using the high-tension wire passing through the park for quite some time now to hunt rhinos. Two years ago, a couple of rhinos were killed in just such a trap laid by poachers. “The poachers generally use techniques on routes used frequently by the rhinos, particularly in the additional areas recently included in the park. A rhino is killed in just a second as soon as it comes in contact with the cables laid down on the ground,” Bora said.

The park authorities, sources said, have taken up the matter with the Assam State Electricity Board to shift the power line cables to a different location. However, nothing has been done in this regard till now.

Bora said the work of the forest guards has increased manifold after additional areas were included in the park. The guards are already under heavy pressure, especially during the winter season, when poachers infiltrate the park.

“Most of the high-tension power cables passes through the first addition area of the park. Now our guards have to constantly maintain strong vigil on this stretch of area,” he said.

Kaziranga, which celebrated its centenary last year, has over 2,000 rhinos at present. The first rhino census was carried out in the park in 1966, when 36 rhinos were counted. In the last census, conduced in 1999, the rhino population has touched 1,552. The official said the rhino population is expected to increase to over 2,000.

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