As one makes their way through the winding roads of Burapahar, curious foreigners in open jeeps who are returning from their day-long safaris remain clueless about why truckloads of uniformed men are making their way through the National Highway that runs through the Kaziranga National Reserve.Kaziranga National Reserve, home to Assam’s famed one-horned rhino, a prehistoric animal with a history that dates back to five billion years, is now attracting attention from a quarter different from the usual foreign tourists that visit it every year – politicians of every hue and colour. In his speech at Bokakhat, Prime Minister Narendra Modi spoke of stalling the poaching of rhinos if his party comes to power, while the AGP has been speaking of an anti-poaching law. Congress, in its part, has been speaking of working out an intensive plan to counter the advanced artillery that poachers carry.<!– /11440465/Dna_Article_Middle_300x250_BTF –>Kaziranga, spread across 860 square kilometres, is home to over 2400 one-horned rhinos, as per the 2015 census. It also has 105 tigers, 1200 Eastern swamp deer, and 1800 wild buffaloes, apart from 1500 elephants. Apart from that, it also home to over 44 endangered and rare mammals, and 14 reptiles and amphibians. In addition, it is home to the entire world population of Pygmy hog and 75% of rhino and wild buffaloes.In 1991, it was given an environmental clearance while in 1996′ it was declared a no development zone, which means that no construction or industry can come up here. Under the EC clearance, the condition was that the road from Jakhalabindha to Bokakhat that makes its way through the national reserve will be denotified from the National Highway Authority (NHAI), and will be handed over to Kaziranga authorities who will regulate the traffic.A 2014 CAG report on Kaziranga report found that in Kaliabor, the were over 71 resorts and dhabas, and none had acquired a NOC. 62 of these were within 1km of the boundary, while there were 4 cases of encroachment.However, the most prominent case of encroachment was by the nearby Numaligarh Refinery Limited which built a wall of six metres in the Deopahar Proposed Forest, thereby blocking an ancient elephant corridor. Elephants would ram themselves against the wall, and a baby elephant was reported to be dead. Videos of elephants went viral on social media.Rathin Barman of the Centre for Wildlife Rehabilitation and Conservation said that poaching is not the only threat to Kaziranga. “There is a fear that the reserve may lose the connect with the nearby Karbi Anglong district, which will be very difficult for animals during flood times,” he said. Barman adds that a little bit of floods is needed to sustain the productive ecosystem which sees the addition of 200 to 250 rhino calves every year. Barman says that apart from the Numaligarh elephant corridor, the Barbari corridor, the Haalibari corridor, the Bajsher corridor and Kanchenjuri corridor, too, have faced encroachments, mostly from resorts and dhabas.Barman feels that the government needs to have a comprehensive plan by declaring it a protected area. “They should buy the whole area and protect it,” he says.There is also a concern that insurgents are deeply invested in poaching, but not too many people talk about it. In the 15 year tenure of the Congress, over 190 rhinos have been poached. The CAG report also reveals that of the 562 posts for reserve staff, only 461 are currently engaged. This includes 15% of frontline staff. The report also adds that of the 229 forest guards, 69 are above 50 years of age. In over 165 anti-poaching camps, 11 are manned by only two officials, making them helpless. The report also said that in the only review of employment and staff in the reserve’s history in 2011, it was found that the reserve needed over 1062 people to man it.Political analyst and writer Dilip Chandan, who has recently been awarded the Syed Abdul Malik award for his novel on Kaziranga, feels that none of the political leaders have been articulate enough. “Kaziranga is an example in the world for its conservatism, and people all over the world come here. Yet, it looks like most of the leaders mention it because they cannot miss doing that. The issues in Kaziranga are deeply rooted in conservatism, in ecological and diversity issues that the world over has faced,” he says. “Unless they governments come up with a proper consternation plan, we will lose this national treasure.”

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Politicians across all parties promise to curtail rhino poaching