The paramilitary forces and forest personnel had sealed all the entry routes for outsiders from 4am to 4pm.
No one knew what was happening inside, except that the wireless messages kept informing the forest personnel on the developments.
Finally at 4pm, when the news came on the operation being called off after two male rhinos were tranquillised out of the targeted four, the expressions on the faces of exhausted field personnel conducting the operation were those of relief.
“Spending hours under the sun was too much. Today we came to know what translocation is all about,” a field official admitted.
The rhino translocation carried out under the IRV 2020 is being implemented by the Assam forest department with support from the International Rhino Foundation and its partners, including the Centre and the World Wildlife Fund.
A team has been at work at the wildlife sanctuary since last evening monitoring the rhinos.
“None of us knew what was in store. The situation was extremely different on the field,” a park official said.
“When the first rhino came out and started shaking violently, we were also nervous for about five minutes. But the rhino gradually calmed down,” an official of the tranquillising team explained.
The official said the rhino movement was unpredictable The first rhino was tranquillised in the Pagladuba area in the wildlife sanctuary.
“It was a difficult task as the rhinos were tranquillised only at 8.30am, almost four hours after the operation started. The operation is highly risky and security to all is not possible.
Therefore, we did not allow anyone to witness the operation. Any casualty would have simply put an end to the entire project. So every precaution had to be taken,” principal chief conservator of forests, Assam, M.C. Malakar said.
The forest department used 10 elephants to capture the rhinos.
For villagers like Ruhidas Mandal, 60, who runs a tea stall outside the Pobitora range office, his only wish is that wherever the rhinos from Pobitora go, they should be secure.
by ROOPAK GOSWAMI
Source: The Telegraph India