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Assam to dehorn rhinos to save them

Friday, 14 February 2014 - 6:00am IST | Place: GUWAHATI | Agency: dna

The rhinos face a threat to their lives for their horn. So, the forest department in Assam is now mulling over the idea of dehorning the animal to save it from poachers.

For years, scores of rhinos have fallen prey to the bullets of poachers in Assam.

The state's forest department says it has received a number of proposals from wildlife experts to dehorn the animals.

""We have got proposals to dehorn the rhinos which we are planning to translocate (to Laokhowa-Burachapori Wildlife Sanctuary) this year," Assam's forest and environment minister Rockybul Hussain told the assembly. He added: "An expert committee has been constituted to look into the feasibility of dehorning the rhinos. Many African nations have adopted this measure to stop poaching and they are quite successful in their endeavour."

According to a recent survey, Assam has 2,552 rhinos. The number of rhinos estimated at Kaziranga National Park is 2,329. Pobitora Wildlife Sanctuary and Orang National Park have 100 each while Manas National Park has 23 rhinos.

As many as 88 rhinos were killed by the poachers in Assam from 2008 to 2013. The horns are high in demand in the south-east Asian countries where each could fetch around Rs 1 crore in the black market.

The Assam Police claims that rhino horns are routed through Nagaland and from there, smuggled into Myanmar and that the poachers include militants. The horn of the animal is considered an aphrodisiac for both men and women.

The recently-held Indian Rhino Vision (IRV) 2020 meeting in Guwahati had also decided on exploring the feasibility of dehorning rhinos before translocation.

A joint programme of Assam's forest department, WWF-India, International Rhino Foundation and partner NGOs, the IRV 2020 envisages increasing Assam's rhino population to 3000 by 2020 by wild-to-wild translocation.

But the move has already sparked off a controversy. Among those backing dehorning the animal is banned militant outfit United Liberation Front of Assam (Independent), led by Paresh Baruah.

The outfit welcomed dehorning but added that it must be done in a scientific manner.

"Dehorning rhinos could save them from poachers and ensure that these pre-historic pachyderms do not face extinction. However, horns that are sawn off must be photographed and indexed properly for transparency," the outfit said.

But Nature's Beckon, an Assam based wildlife conservation group, has questioned the legality of dehorning.

"Dehorning is not justified just because the animal has a threat to its life owing to its horn. The move only suggests the department's helplessness," it said.
 

Rhinos killed from 2008-2013 in Assam

Kaziranga National Park
2008 – 6
2009 – 6
2010 – 5
2011 – 3
2012 – 11
2013 – 26

Manas National Park
2008 – 0
2009 – 0
2010 – 0
2011 – 1
2012 – 1
2013 – 4

Orang National Park
2008 – 6
2009 – 6
2010 – 2
2011 – 1
2012 – 2
2013 – 3

Pobitora Wildlife Sanctuary
2008 – 0
2009 – 0
2010 – 0
2011 – 3
2012 – 1
2013 – 1




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