World Kaziranga: The Park That Kills People to Protect Animals



For the people who live around Kaziranga, a national park in India, the rising death toll has become worrisome, and a major issue. The authorities at the park protect the wildlife by shooting suspected poachers dead.

Kaziranga National Park is an incredible story of conservation success.

There were just a handful of Indian one-horned rhinoceros left when the park was set up a century ago in Assam, in India's far east. Now there are more than 2,400 - two-thirds of the entire world population.

But the way the park protects the animals is controversial. Its rangers have been given the kind of powers to shoot and kill normally only conferred on armed forces policing civil unrest.


The government has granted the guards at Kaziranga extraordinary powers that give them considerable protection against prosecution if they shoot and kill people in the park.

The director of the park, Dr Satyendra Singh, says the term "shoot-on-sight" does not accurately describe how he orders the forest rangers to deal with suspected poachers.

"First we warn them - who are you? But if they resort to firing we have to kill them. First we try to arrest them, so that we get the information, what are the linkages, who are others in the gang?"

Dr Singh reveals that just in the past three years, 50 poachers have been killed. He says it reflects how many people in the local community have been lured into the trade as rhino horn prices have risen. As many as 300 locals are involved in poaching, he believes.

Reports say that Rhino horn can fetch very high prices in Vietnam and China where it is sold as a miracle cure for everything from cancer to erectile dysfunction. Street vendors charge as much as $6,000 for 100g - making it considerably more expensive than gold.