Guwahati, June 2: Assam Forest Minister Rockybul Hussain Sunday issued a white paper on wildlife conservation in Assam, saying his department has been working seriously to stop the menace of rhino poaching.
A total of 18 one-horned rhinos have been killed since January this year, including 17 in Kaziranga National Park. A total of 42 rhinos were poached in Assam last year which included 27 in Kaziranga.
"We have been taking steps to stop the poaching. When our government came to power in Assam there was lack of manpower in Kaziranga. We have increased the manpower strength to 1,200 inside the park.
"We have also amended the Wildlife Protection Act so that the jail term of the poachers can be enhanced. We have also empowered the forest personnel to use arms to fight the poachers. Steps like setting up of electronic eye, increase in anti-poaching camps have also been taken," said Hussain.
His statement came a day after union Minister of State for Sports Sarbananda Sonowal, a Bharatiya Janata Party MP from the state, warned that no one involved in the poaching of rhinos would be spared.
Addressing the party office bearers' meeting at Kaziranga Saturday, Sonowal said a total of 1,060 rhinos were killed by poachers since 2001.
Hussain, justifying the conservation efforts undertaken by the Congress-led government, said the rhino population in the state had also registered a significant increase in the last few years.
"While we had only 1,672 rhinos in Assam in 1999, the last census of the rhinos indicated more than 2,500 rhinos in the state," he said.
The minister further said that poaching is a global phenomenon and that countries in Africa have also been facing the menace of rhino killing.