Kaziranga National Park
Jeep Safari in KNP. File image

GUWAHATI: Assam principal chief conservator of forests (PCCF) and Head of Forest Force (HoFF) NK Yadav has come under the scanner for various anomalies in the functioning of the Kaziranga National Park (KNP) and the wildlife wing of the forest department.

Sources said funds of Tiger Conservation Fund (TCF), which are to be used only for conservation, have been indiscriminately spent for non-permissible works in KNP under the orders of PCCF MK Yadava, who also hold the charge of Chief Wildlife Warden (CWLW).

According to a reply to a Right to Information (RTI) query, around Rs 1.1 crore was spent on former President Ram Nath Kovind’s visit to Kaziranga National Park (KNP) in February last year.

The amount was spent from the corpus meant to be used for the conservation of tigers. The RTI application was filed by wildlife activist Rohit Choudhury.

There are also allegations that rhino census figures in Kaziranga National Park have been fudged in consecutive years, with MK Yadava at the helm of affairs as CWLW. 

For example, in compartment 5C of Agratoli Range, five rhinos seen during the Rhino Census 2022 were allegedly announced as 83 rhinos. 

“The details of fudging have now been revealed by the Kaziranga officials, which has put the Government of Assam to great embarrassment on international forums,” said a forest official requesting anonymity.

“As per the 2015 estimate, the number of rhinos in Kaziranga was 2401, while it was 2411 as per the 2018 estimate. On the other hand, according to the 2022 estimate, the number of rhinos was 2600 plus. And CWLW Yadav said this was despite 400 deaths. If 2411 rhinos recorded in 2018 have to multiply to 3000 (so that 400 of them could die), they have to be mating day & night in disregard to the mating season and mating habits,” said the official.

It may be mentioned that the Union Ministry of Environment, Forest and Climate Change has recently sought a “factual report” from the CWLW on the rhino population enumeration, conducted in the Kaziranga National Park in March 2022.

The Environment Ministry sought the report following a complaint filed by wildlife activist Rohit Choudhury, alleging anomalies in the estimation of the rhinos in the national park.

Activist Rohit Choudhury had alleged that the rhino population estimation in the Kaziranga National Park in 2022 was inflated by manipulating survey data sheets.

According to Choudhury, data sheets from the enumeration across the 84 compartments of the national park showed that the actual count of rhinos was 2,042.

But this figure was “adjusted” after a sample survey in some randomly selected compartments to show 2,613 rhinos —an increase of 200 from the 2,413 rhinos estimated in 2018, the activist had alleged.

Rohit Choudhury had said the survey data sheets were doctored to “mislead the government and the public on the actual number of rhinos” in the national park.

There are allegations that the number of media persons involved in the Kaziranga rhino census conducted in March, 2022 was manipulated.    

“The CWLW announced that 49 media representatives were involved in the 14 rhino population estimation 2022, which was not true.  To match the lie, inflated food bills were fabricated. Later two different sets of food bills with differing figures became available in the public domain,” said an activist.

Trafficking of captive elephants is going on unhindered in Yadava’s reign as Chief Wildlife Warden.

 A few cases of adult elephants being transported without microchips, or with freshly installed microchips, have come to light.

In one such case, elephants, which were transported to Gujarat in a truck, were intercepted and found to be without a microchip by the West Bengal Forest department.

PCCF MK Yadav was not available for comments.

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