Meet The New Protectors of the Kaziranga Rhino

74 men and eight women make up the Special Rhino Protection Force that now guards the vulnerable creatures at Kaziranga National Park
An adult one horned rhinoceros in Kaziranga National Park
An adult one horned rhinoceros in Kaziranga National Park

Kaziranga National Park in Assam has introduced its first ever security force dedicated solely to protecting the Indian one-horned rhinoceros (Rhinoceros unicornis). The 430 sq km park is home to two-thirds of the global one-horned rhino population, which is one of the main wildlife draws in the state. The Special Rhino Protection Force (SRPF) was deployed on July 1, 2019 to protect the gentle animals against the threat of poaching.

The 82-constable SRPF underwent 43 weeks of training before assuming their duties at Kaziranga. Akin to the Assam Forest Protection Force (formed in 1986, for forest and wildlife security), the SRPF&rsquos introduction is the result of a collaboration between central and state governments, on the initiative of the National Tiger Conservation Authority. The relatively young SRPF constables, on reaching the age of 40, will be relieved of their rhino-protection duties and allowed to join the AFPF. 

Reports show that poaching incidents have decreased in the last few years after a decade high in 2014. Nevertheless, the threat remains. With the World Health Organisation (WHO) formally recognising traditional Chinese medicine as a form of treatment, poachers and their markets (which exceedingly value powdered rhino horn) may get new life. 

&ldquoIn 2019, there have been three cases so far,&rdquo said Rohini Saikia, Divisional Forest Officer at Kaziranga, to The Indian Express. &ldquoThe SRPF is like an additional force (apart from the AFPF) trained specifically for operations related to the rhino, with modern arms and ammunition&mdasha big boost to the fight against poachers.&rdquo The squad, who are also trained in input-based raid operations, will be deployed across eight areas&mdashAgratoli, Bagori, Burapahar, Panpur, Bokakhat, Kohora, Gomeri and Biswanat&mdashto protect, according to a 2018 census, over 2,413 rhinos.

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