Kaziranga National Park in Assam, India is one of the world’s most important wildlife sanctuaries and a UNESCO World Heritage Site. It currently hosts two-thirds of the planet’s Indian rhinoceroses, whose population numbers are increasingly threatened by poaching and habitat destruction.
There are plenty of methods groups employ to put off poachers, including the presence of armed guards. As revealed by a new BBC documentary, however, Kaziranga rangers don’t just display a show of force – they take things a step further and shoot trespassers on sight.
This sounds quite morally compromised, but you can’t argue with the results. Despite the fact that the Black Market value of just 1 kilogram (2.2 pounds) of rhino horn is between $60,000 and $300,000, and that demand has never been higher, the Indian rhinoceros is definitely flourishing in Kaziranga.
The operation at this particular sanctuary is one of the most high-tech in the world, featuring a militarized ranger force armed with effective weaponry, surveillance drones, wire traps, and motion sensors. It’s clear that the regional government takes great pride in their ability to protect their vulnerable animal species where other authorities around the world have failed to do so.
As highlighted by The Conversation, over 20 poachers met their maker at the business end of a ranger’s rifle in 2015 alone. The more poachers killed, the fewer rhinos poached – the data seems to supports this.
However, the BBC’s investigation found evidence of the rangers acting somewhat beyond the boundaries of the law, and it’s possible that some of the poacher killings were unnecessary – and were certainly extra-judicial.
Should rangers have the ability to act as judge, jury, and executioner to those that threaten the Indian rhinoceros, or should there be more oversight?
An Indian rhinoceros wandering through Kaziranga National Park. David Evison/Shutterstock
The park director told BBC News that the rangers are instructed to try and arrest the poachers before resorting to shooting at them, but it’s not clear how often these instructions are stuck to. There are even tales from local villagers that innocent bystanders just walking through the area are also being shot, and often killed, by the overzealous guards.
A report by the regional government on Kaziranga and the poaching of its rhinos, tigers, and elephants outlined the hardline nature it would take to such transgressions. Along with enormous fines for any disturbance to the park through invasive species, it also argued that “[ecological] crimes must be described as most heinous… and must carry severe-most punishments possible.”
“Crimes against man, an animal which is found in great abundance and one who is largely responsible for destroying nature and ecosystems, must take a back seat when crime against mother nature is on the examination table,” it reads. “These crimes are far more heinous than murder.”
[H/T: BBC News]