An elephant was killed in a gunfight between timber smugglers and forest guards at Joypur range in Dehing-Patkai National park in Upper Assam’s Dibrugarh district.
The incident took place at Basabnalla in Hakunguri beat near the Assam-Arunachal Pradesh border on July 19.
On Tuesday morning, forest officials found the carcass of the elephant.
Sources said people from the Arunachal Pradesh side constantly encroaching Assam land and most of the time, the timber smuggler entering Dehing-Patkai forest and cut valuable trees.
“The forest guards got information that timber smugglers were slashing trees by using machines. They immediately went to the area. After witnessing the guards, the timber smugglers started firing on them. The forest guards retaliated. The elephant which they brought to transport the logs was killed in the gunfight,” said Pradipto Baruah, Divisional Forest Officer, Dibrugarh.
“The timber smugglers were from Arunachal Pradesh side and were using machines to cut trees. Even, NSCN is also involved in the cutting down of the Assam forest. We are carrying out regular patrolling in the area but sometimes the timber smuggler takes advantage of the darkness to cut trees,” he said.
“We have conducted the post-mortem of the elephant on Tuesday and as per SOP, the caracas was disposed of,” Baruah said.
Mridu Paban Phukan, an environmentalist said that for many years, smugglers from the Arunachal Pradesh side have been involved in the practice of cutting down trees located on the Assam side.
“Many a time, the matter was brought into notice but nothing has been done to resolve the issue. The timber smugglers enter the forest area of Assam during broad daylight with machines to cut the trees. Many illegal sawmills are functioning along the Assam-Arunachal Pradesh border area,” he said.
“The forest protection team is stationed at Dibrugarh, however, they don’t come here to protect forest resources. If things like this continue then one day, the forest will be cleared by the timber smugglers,” he alleged.
“The people from Arunachal Pradesh have been encroaching Assam land for many years. But the Assam government failed to take any concrete step to free the land from encroachers. Earlier, the area near the Assam-Arunachal Pradesh border was rich in vegetation, but now the timber smuggler is slashing down valuable trees of Assam every day with the help of machines,” Phukan added.