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Jumbo killed in gunfight between timber smugglers and forest guards in Assam

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GUWAHATI: A domestic elephant was killed as a result of a gunfight between timber smugglers and forest guards at Joypur range in Dehing-Patkai National Park in Upper Assam’s Dibrugarh district.

The incident took place at Basabnalla in Hakunguri beat along Assam-Arunachal border on July 19.

On Tuesday morning, forest officials found the carcass of the elephant.

Sources said that people from the Arunachal side have been constantly encroaching Assam land and most of the times, the timber smugglers enter Dehing-Patkai forest and fell valuable trees.

“The forest guards got the information that timber smugglers were slashing trees using machines. Immediately they reached the area. After witnessing the guards, the timber smugglers started firing on them. The forest guards retaliated on being fired. The elephant which they brought to transport the logs was killed in the gunfight,” said Pradipto Baruah, divisional forest officer (DFO), Dibrugarh.

“The timber smugglers were from Arunachal side and were using machines to cut trees.The NSCN is also involved in the cutting down of Assam forests. We are doing regular patrolling in the area but sometimes the timber smugglers take advantage of darkness to cut trees,” he said.

“We have conducted a post-mortem of the elephant on Tuesday and following the SOP, the carcass was disposed of,” Baruah informed.

Mridu Paban Phukan, an environmentalist said, “From many years, smugglers from Arunachal side have been involved in the practice of felling trees located on Assam side. Many times, the matter was brought into notice but nothing has been done to resolve the issue. The timber smugglers enter the forest area of Assam in broad daylight with machines to cut the trees. Many illegal saw mills are functioning in the Assam-Arunachal border area.”

“The forest protection team is present and stationed at Dibrugarh, however they don’t come here to protect forest resources. If things like this continue then one day, the forest will be cleared by the timber smugglers,” he alleged.

Phukan further added, “The people from Arunachal Pradesh have been encroaching Assam land for many years. But still the Assam government failed to take any concrete step to free the encroachers. Earlier, the area near Assam-Arunachal border was rich in vegetation, but now the timber smugglers are felling valuable trees everyday with the help of machines.”

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