Guards foil poaching attempt at Jaldapara

JALPAIGURI: A poaching attempt has been averted at Jaldapara wildlife sanctuary in Jalpaiguri on Friday after forest officials on patrol located the poachers and chased them out of the forest.

The incident took place in the wee hours at the TEC beat of the sanctuary`s west range. Four forest guards, patrolling on two elephants, spotted five-six men inside the core area at around 3am. The group had set up a camp inside the forest and was trying to climb up the trees to spot one-horned rhinoceros from the top.

Realising that they were poachers, the guards did not give the group any chance to retaliate and opened fire at them immediately. Taking advantage of the darkness, the poachers escaped into the forest. However, they left behind a gun, 14 rounds of live cartridges and a bag that contained a newspaper published from Nagaland, tubes of mosquito repellents and some food.

"It appears the poachers were from the Northeast. We have beefed up security to locate the culprits if they are still hiding there," said a senior forest official. "We need to stop such incidents at any cost. I have conveyed this message to all my men," said forest minister Hiten Burman.

Incidents of poaching are not new in Jaldapara. In October 2009, a gang of hunters shot and injured a rhino, which escaped out of the forest only to be confronted by villagers armed with stones and sticks. The frightened animal fell into the Torsha River and died.

Jaldapara Wildlife Sanctuary is one among four forest tracts in India where one-horned rhinos can be seen in the wild. The others are Assam's Kaziranga and Manas national parks and Bengal's Gorumara National Park. Rhinos can also be seen in the Terai region of Nepal. There are about 3,000 Indian rhinos in the wild, half of them in Kaziranga alone. Jaldapara has around 130 rhinos and attracts thousands of tourists every year.

The forest minister, who was in Jalpaiguri on Friday, announced that the Jalpaiguri Aranya Bhavan would be his office in north Bengal and that he would be available there once in every month. "All works for north Bengal would be executed from this office," he said.