Guwahati: Aaranyak has expressed its gratitude to Assam government for achieving Zero Rhino Killing in Assam in the year 2022.
The Greater one-horned rhinoceros, which is listed as vulnerable species as per IUCN Red List of Threatened Animals, is a lucrative target for illegal wildlife trade, Aaranyak said in a press release issued on Sunday.
The northeast India is one of the transit routes for illegal wildlife products that heads to consumer countries in South and Southeast Asia.
“It is heartening to learn that not a single rhino was shot by poachers in the year 2022 in Assam because of the proactive efforts of the Assam Forest Department and other line departments including Assam Police towards meeting its target of zero-poaching,” the Aaranyak said.
The onus of safeguarding rhinos and other wildlife from poaching however, lies with other stakeholders as well, besides the government agencies.
Taking cognizance of this, Aaranyak- a leading research-based conservation organisation (www.aaranyak.org) is working in tandem through a multi-pronged approach ranging from conducting research, outreach, capacity building and reversing habitat degradation to complement and support the efforts of Assam government to secure the future of Greater One Horned Rhino in Assam. Aaranyak’s wildlife genetics laboratory has pioneered rhino conservation genetic research in India through understanding of spatial and temporal aspects of genetic diversity of the species and has developed genetic census methods using DNA fingerprinting of dung samples.
This led to crucial management recommendations for conservation planning of rhinos in its natural habitat. One of the most remarkable contributions of Aaranyak is providing DNA forensic analysis support to Assam Forest Department since 2014.
Aaranyak played a vital role by undertaking genetic sampling of more than 2500 rhino horns which were in Govt. repositories to verify its genuineness as part of reconciliation and burning of the horns by Assam Govt. in 2021.
A novel initiative of Aaranyak to help rhino bearing areas in Assam to combat poaching was deployment of trained K9 unit in 2012 to help the forest officials carry out scene of crime investigation aptly to identify poacher’s exit route after a crime against rhino is triggered by criminals.
The trained sniffer dogs of Belgian Malinois breed of K9 unit are globally known to be efficient in dealing with crimes investigation. It is worth mentioning that the initiation of K9 unit engaging Belgian Malinois breed is the country’s first such initiative to assist rhino bearing areas to check poaching, and has been highly result oriented.
With six dogs and their handlers stationed at different rhino-bearing PAs in Assam, we are continuously boosting the continued efforts of the Forest officials to track down the offenders.
Another flagship initiative of Aaranyak in mitigating wildlife crime with particular focus on rhinos is conducting sensitisation workshops for different law enforcement agencies such as the Sashatra Seema Bal, Border Security Force, Police officials, Judiciary, transport agencies like Railways and airport/airline authorities, media agencies, educational institutions, and local communities. We have complemented efforts of Government agencies and supported them with surveillance vehicles and field kits around rhino-bearing areas to combat illegal killing of rhinos.
With a motto of inculcating the conservation ethos into younger minds, Aaranyak has been successfully conducting awareness drives with two serial programmes- “Rhino Goes to School” and “Friends of Rhinos”, which are targeted towards students of the fringes of rhino-bearing areas.
Wildlife crime is highly organised business that not only threatens the rich wildlife of the region, but impinges on national security as well.
To combat wildlife crime, Aaranyak pledges to work relentlessly and adopt new tools to support relevant Government agencies through institutional capacity building, strengthening prosecution knowhows by working with State Legal Services Authorities in Assam and adjoining states in North East India, enhancing participation of local communities and conducting research that aids in long-term conservation of threatened species like rhinos. Aaranyak offers special thanks to all frontline forest and police personals for their tireless efforts to make 2022 Zero Rhino Killing year in Assam.