With the 30 rhino to be killed this year in India falling to the bullets of poachers at Kaziranga National Park, Assam, on September 17, WWF-India has on the occasion of World Rhino Day urged the Union Environment and Forest Ministry to urgently adopt a National Rhino Conservation Plan. It also pointed to the increasing use of automatic weapons in poaching.
In a statement on Saturday, WWF-India said that “as India and rest of the world celebrate rhinos and their conservation successes on World Rhino Day today, this latest killing is a grim reminder of the challenges facing protection of rhinos in India. The increasing use of lethal weapons such as the AK-47s used in Tuesday’s poaching incident point to a growing sophistication and easy access to such deadly weapons among poaching syndicates active in the recent killing”.
Referring to how the recent increase in poaching threatened to undo all the good that had come by way of decades of conservation efforts, which resulted in the population of rhinos in Assam rising to around 2,500 currently, WWF-India said: “The spike in poaching over the last couple of years seems to indicate that poaching syndicates are strengthening.”
Calling for urgent action, it said: “To avoid loss of these hard-fought gains, there is an urgent need for the adoption of a National Rhino Conservation Plan for India.” The organisation has, therefore, urged Environment and Forest Minister Jayanthi Natarajan to take the lead on this and bring together the four rhino-bearing States of India -- Assam, West Bengal, Bihar and Uttar Pradesh.
“The adoption of such a plan will increase coordination among the four rhino-bearing States and enable sharing of the best practices and information on poaching syndicates, enabling better protection of India’s rhinos,” said Dr. Dipankar Ghose, director of Species and Landscapes, WWF-India.
WWF-India also organised a number of events across the country to increase awareness about rhinos among the wider public. In Delhi, along with Oxford Bookstore, a special awareness event was organised for children where apart from a film screening, an engaging and fun workshop was conducted by renowned artist and sculptor Anant Misra. The organisation said it remains committed to the conservation of India’s rhinos and will continue to engage with the government and forest departments to ensure a secure future for these magnificent animals.