Bizarre but true. Forest officials in Assam have turned into poachers lately.
A disturbing incidence that came to light on Monday morning bears enough testimony to this fact.
The story goes back to 2017 when a rhino that appeared to be a female one strayed out of the Orang National Park.
Till September 24, 2018, the rhino was noticed moving around the Laokhowa range in the fringes of the Orang National Park.
The strayed rhino was always under observation till date since it strayed out of the national park.
However, the rhino mysteriously disappeared into thin air around November last year.
Forest officials made wildlife conservationists believe that the rhino has moved inside the Orang National Park, the original place of its habitation on its own.
Though there were demands for a proper inquiry into the whole matter, forest officials, mainly from the Indian Forest Service (IFS) hushed up the matter.
Even the Principal Chief Conservator of Forests (PCCF) failed to pursue the matter for reasons unknown to many.
Wildlife conservationists say that the matter should have been properly taken up by the Wildlife Crime Control Bureau (WCCB) and a thorough investigation should have been carried out, but nothing of that sort has taken place.
However, now the truth is all open for everyone to see. On Monday at around 10 am, a carcass of a rhino was dug out at Palashtoli camp under Laokhowa wildlife sanctuary.
The carcass of the rhino has clear indication that it was killed and the horn chopped off.
Though now massive investigation is on, eyebrows have been raised as to why the forest officials did not take up the disappearance of the rhino last year?
Is it that forest officials themselves have killed the rhino, took away the horn and buried the carcass within the forest range?
It is learnt from reliable sources that intensive grilling of some officials is still on and the department is trying to pass the buck to professional poachers.
“IFS officer of 2011 batch Jitender Kumar, who was the then DFO of the Wildlife Division, Nagaon, has been under the scanner,” said sources, “But as the PCCF and the chief secretary of Assam are from the same state, top-level officials are lobbying to save him.”
“However, the current DFO of the Wildlife Division, Nagaon, Ranjith Ram along his team is doing job for protection of the wildlife,” added sources.
Sources also informed that an investigation team from Kaziranga National Park went to the spot along with metal detector and retrieved several parts of the carcass.
Will the wildlife authorities and the State Government take up the matter seriously so that truth prevails for the sake of wildlife conservation in the State, particularly the one-horned rhinos?