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Encroachment threatening tiger habitat in Assam

By K Anurag
June 14, 2010 18:25 IST
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An important tiger habitat in Assam faces the serious threat of encroachment from suspected illegal migrants from Bangladesh who have swarmed numerous sand bars (locally called char) in the Brahmaputra river.

The 78-square km Rajiv Gandhi National Park at Orang in Darrang district of Assam is home to 14 tigers as per the last census. The tiger habitat has been repeatedly targeted by suspected Bangladeshi migrants in recent times taking advantage of ill-equipped forest and wildlife protection force, who are plagued by serious manpower crisis.

The forest personnel had to seek help from the Army to thwart two organized encroachment attempts in May. Forest guards mounted on trained elephants and backed by Army personnel, launched an emergency operation inside the national park on to demolish mud houses built by those encroachers in the southern portion of the park. Senior forest officials informed that some mud houses were built in the core area of the park.

Two days ago, suspected gang of encroachers shot dead a forest guard, Abdul Hasan Ali, inside the park, which raises queries about the vulnerability of an important tiger and rhinoceros habitat. Ali had earlier received threats for preventing poachers and encroachers from entering Orang.

Assam chief minister Tarun Gogoi has acknowledged the grave threat posed to some wildlife protection areas including Rajiv Gandhi National Park by encroachers and underlined the need for improving training facilities and procuring sophisticated weapons for forest personnel in the state to face the challenge.
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K Anurag in Guwahati