Assam is taking on wildlife crimes with fast-track courts, tighter investigation, even rewards

Assam is taking steps to curb wildlife crime by speeding up prosecution and conviction of poachers.

With the new fast tracks set specifically to judge wildlife crime, six convictions have been made in five separate cases so far this year.

Of the 17 wildlife-related arrests in the state so far this year, 11 cases were prosecuted, according to official figures.

Six phrases have already been obtained in 2017: three for rhino poaching in Kaziranga National Park and the rest of the illegal entry and destruction of habitat, near the Nameri Tiger Reserve.

However, official figures show only one conviction for the wildlife crime in Assam in 2016, five in 2015, two in 2014, four in 2013, none in 2012 and two in 2011. From 2000 to 2010, there was a combined total Of only three convictions.

Accelerated prosecution follows an order of Nov. 28 of the Guwahati Supreme Court to create 10 specialized courts speeded up on wildlife offenses in districts where there are many state parks and wildlife sanctuaries.

A Bengal tiger, seen here in the Ranthambore National Park. (Credit: Rhett A Butler / Mongabay)
The most recent conviction took place on June 2, when a court sentenced Sonitpur Budhiram Soren to six months of rigorous imprisonment and a fine of 12,000 rupees ($ 185).

He was charged with trespassing and damage and destruction of trees at the wildlife sanctuary Sonai Rupai, the satellite area of Nameri National Park recently said.

Two other offenders were sentenced in March by the same court for similar offenses. In each of these cases, the court made the unusual decision to reward forest personnel to catch criminals, giving them bonuses in fines paid by the convicted.

In another recent case, an accelerated Golaghat court can put 25 of the sneaky Sukhdeo Kutumb behind bars for seven years and imposed a fine of Rs 25,000 to participate in two 2013 rhino killings in Kaziranga.

At the time of the incident, Kutumb managed to escape after a meeting with the forest staff. He remained in hiding for almost three years until he was captured by the Forest Service in September 2016.

Once arrested, Kutumb confessed to cut the rhino horns and clandestine sale in Dimapur for the mall rhinoceros horns and other wildlife products in the neighboring state of Nagaland.

“Previously such trials lasted more than four to five years, which ultimately weakened the case. Poachers taking advantage of such excessive delays have often escaped to other places and the plot would be longer,” said Mongabay Kaziranga Management of the National Park, Satyendra Singh.

The increase in claims has been offset by an increase in wildlife state arrests in the state. According to Wildlife Director General Bikash Brahma, 207 people were arrested from May 2016 until May 2017.

These cases, he has, he said, are at various stages of investigation or are currently facing trial on fast cuts. This is one of the highest rates in the last five years, Brahma said.

On 16 May, four people – including a government employee from the neighboring Arunachal Pradesh state – were arrested for possession of the bones and leopard in the Sonampur Assam district.

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