The world, especially in India, has been facing a serious poaching epidemic. Kaziranga National Park’s goal is conservation and keeping animals on the endangered species list safe by any means, even killing suspected poachers.
Indian one-horned rhinoceros, with only a reported 2,400 left in the world, is an animal at the top of the park’s list of protected species. The rhino’s horn also fetches an insane amount of money on the black market ranging from $6,000 to $100,000 in Vietnam and China who see the horn as a “miracle healer” according to BBC
To keep the valuable horn from reaching the market, guards of the park are authorized to protect the species at all cost.
In 2015, a large number of suspected poachers were reportedly killed by the armed guards in the park. The exact number is unspecified, but initial reports indicated that more than 20 people a year were shot dead. That’s more than double the number of rhinos that were killed.
But the question must be asked, is this taking matters too far to conserve these endangered species and deter the poachers? Or are they within their rights if that’s what it takes to protect an animal that could be wiped off the face of the earth?
“The instruction is whenever you see the poachers or hunters, we should start our guns and hunt them,” Avdesh, a lead guard at the park and his fourth year there, said.”Whenever you see the poachers or any people during night-time we are ordered to shoot them.”
There is little to no consequence in doing so, he explained. The government has given the park an extensive amount of jurisdiction. Those opposed to the park’s regulations argue that the guards are carrying out “extrajudicial executions.”
But the director of the park says those opposed to how they handle poachers have incorrect information about their procedures.
“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. Satyendra Singh explained.
Singh says that the people being lured into killing these rhinos have no idea what they’re getting themselves into. The rising death toll of nearby community members who get lured into the trade is becoming a problem.
The park and their employees stand behind their methods even though this method resulted in a young boy being killed by guards after he wandered into the reservation and was unable to answer when questioned by guards.
The tension continues to grow between the local tribes and the park as more innocent civilians are being killed.
There is no question the endangered species should be protected, but at what cost? Do we allow the killing of innocent civilians to save these animals? It seems sadly ironic to take a life in order to save a life.