At a time when the great Indian one-horned rhinos are in danger in the forests of North Bengal, it is a huge relief to know that a host of environmental outfits in the region, along with the state forest department, have come together to save the faunal species from the hands of poachers.

The incidences of rhino poaching have been reported from Jaldapara National Park and Garumara National Park over the last few years. In an attempt to save the rhinos and bring an end to poaching in national parks of North Bengal, the Coimbatore based Zoo Outreach Organisation with the support of Himalayan Nature and Adventure Foundation, Himalayan Ecology Conservation Foundation and Odlabari and Garumara Wildlife Division had joined hands with the West Bengal forest department to host the “Rhino Conservation Educator Skill Enhancement Workshop”.

The three-day workshop was held from 24 July to 5 August in several national parks in the region. This is the first time such a wide-ranging initiative has taken place.

The premier workshop witnessed the presence of 30 participants and was held at Garumara National Park, while the second workshop kicked off at Murti. The third workshop was held at Jaldapara National Park and the fourth at Garumara National Park. Shankar De, secretary, Himalayan Ecology Conservation Foundation, said, “Around 120 educators, including local villagers, imparted training at the workshop free of cost.

There were street plays performed by local students of the village for audiences on the concluding day of the workshop.” He also said that rhinos are soft targets for poachers who make entry into the forests with the help of locals and seek information about the faunal species from them.

“They form a nexus with villagers for the purpose of poaching. Poachers track the movement of the faunal species, often tranquillise the rhinos and forcibly extract their horns. In most cases, the rhinos are left bleeding profusely and succumb to their injuries. Last year, one poacher was caught with the horn of a rhino.”

De also said that if the forest department officials are informed in advance, they can save the rhinos and organise immediate relief for the faunal species.

“We are hoping that once the locals are made aware about the need to safeguard rhinos from poachers, they will not offer any help to them. The horns of rhinos are in high demand in Saudi Arabia and the Middle-East and are used for medicinal purposes. Often the poachers smuggle the horns of rhinos using the Nepal and Bangladesh route,” De added.