Sunday, February 27, 2011

NGO Activists Confronted by a Mob in Kaziranga National Park

One-horned rhinos grazing in Kaziranga National Park

The Kaziranga National Park is famous for being the home of the Indian one-horned rhinoceros. This majestic and almost mythical creature is the prime attraction for the tourist industry, but also a target for poachers. The national park has seen its losses of rhinos over the years, but its forest guards have always fought back in protecting these highly endangered species. In order to prevent further incursion of poaching in the park, authorities had been considering to limit the flow of tourism in the park as a way to protect the local wildlife. This seemed like a bright idea, but it did not sit well with organizations associated with tourism who feared that the plan would impact the industry.

Just recently, a mob led by members of the Kaziranga Jeep Safari Association accosted a group of NGO (non-governmental organization) activists and threatened them to leave the park. This was not the first incident. A month ago, the association along with some local organizations issued the warning to NGOs involved in Kaziranga's tiger census. The team that was encountered yesterday consisted of two members of the WWF (World Wildlife Fund) and two scientists from the Wildlife Institute of India. According to Jayanta Pathak of Aaranyak, an NGO involved in the tiger census, the group was returning from the park when the mob confronted them at Kohora. Although Aaranyak had recently appealed to the authorities not to impose a total ban on tourist movement in Kaziranga, the action did not give much satisfaction to the park's tourism organizations. Punen Gogoi, president of the Jeep Safari Association, stated that WWF and Aaranyak had not taken local people into confidence.

I'm extremely surprised to see that all the organizations linked with tourism in Kaziranga would threaten those people who are actively trying to protect one of the park's endangered species. The rhino may be the prime attraction, but the sanctuary also houses the tiger which also happens to be one of India's iconic animals. These people (Kaziranga Jeep Safari Association) should understand that rhinos and other local wildlife have been suffering from poaching, and should be treated as living treasures of Kaziranga. By not allowing NGO activists and conservationists to carry out any sort of census would be like giving the poachers a better chance at diminishing the wildlife. In my opinion, the impact of poaching is what affects India's tourist industry. The nation is one of the few places in this world that houses a rich diversity of wildlife than anywhere else. Over the years, the wildlife has been vulnerable from the impending threat of poaching. But now, I feel that in order to help protect the wildlife, there should be limitations in the flow of tourism as this would also be considered a disturbance to the nation's wild places. Besides, there are plenty of other unique and interesting attractions like the Taj Mahal and the Red Fort. Also, with the threat of poaching, sometimes there may be a chance of innocent tourists getting captured or even killed by poachers. This is why it is important that census of India's local wildlife should be carried out, in order to ensure how well it is doing. That way, tourists would know whether it is worth visiting a particular national park.

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