Assam plans to increase rhino numbers
Guwahati: Under attack for the recent killing of rhinos in Kaziranga National Park, Assam government today said it has set a target to increase the animal's population to 3,000 by 2020.
"There are 2,505 rhinos in the state now and the target is to reach the 3,000 mark by 2020," Assam Forest and Environment Minister Rockybul Hussain told a state-level function on the occasion of the 58th Wildlife Week here.
The recent changes in the Forest Act allowing guards to use sophisticated arms would help deter poachers.
"Since the forest guards earlier did not have the power to use sophisticated weapons, they could not combat with the poachers/militants armed with modern weapons.
"But now that the act has been amended, they will be able to use arms like Self-Loading Rifle (SLR), revolvers, machine guns and AK-47 and put a stiff resistance to fight," he said.
The state government had in April this year amended the Forest Act to give the State Forest Force powers on the line of the police and to allow them to use state-of-the-art arms.
The minister said while earlier it was easier for a poacher to get bail, since the 1972 Wildlife Protection Act has been amended the offence has been converted to a non-bailable offence and awarded even life imprisonment.
"The government is also planning to set up the State Wildlife Crime Control Board at par with that of the Centre," he said.
Hussain termed as positive the decision of International Union for Conservation of Nature to list rhinos in Kaziranga National Park in the 'endangered' category in 2008 and in the 'vulnerable' category recently.