One more rhino was killed by poachers at the Kaziranga National Park in Assam, taking this year’s toll to 24. The carcass of a male rhino was recovered from the Agaratoli range of the park on Tuesday. The animal was believed to have been killed about two days back. Its horn was sawed off and taken away by the poachers. Several empty cartridges of .303 rifle was found near the animal.
The spurt in the killing of rhinos at the park has made wildlife activists go hammer and tongs against chief minister Tarun Gogoi-led Congress government in the state.
In the face of the widespread criticism, an embattled Gogoi said laws would be made more stringent to curb poaching. “We will bring in harsher laws against poachers,” Gogoi told reporters in Guwahati, adding “Government has already made the laws stringent by amending the Wildlife (Protection) Act, 1972”. Authorities at the UNESCO world heritage site said they were faced with “tremendous pressure” from the poachers. “When the demand is high, there will always be an increase in the number of poachers and incidents of poaching,” park director NK Vasu told dna.
“However, it’s not that they (poachers) always have a free run. We were able to kill and nab some of them in recent times,” he added.
Currently, the 430-sq km park is manned by over 1,200 forest guards. According to official data, Assam has 2,552 rhinos. The number of rhinos estimated at Kaziranga is 2,329. Pobitora Wildlife Sanctuary and Orang National Park have 100 rhinos each while Manas National Park has 23 rhinos.
From 2008 to 2012, altogether 31 rhinos were killed at Kaziranga. The figure statewide during the period was 54. But an alarming number of 29 rhinos have been killed statewide so far this year alone. Apart from the 24 killed at Kaziranga, 5 were killed elsewhere. The poachers, government claims, include a section of the militants.
A senior police official said the rhino horn, considered an aphrodisiac for both men and women, could fetch Rs50 lakh to Rs1 crore in the south-east Asian black market. The horns are believed to be routed through Nagaland.
The Assam government on Monday had said it planned to erect solar fencing at the Kaziranga National Park to protect the wildlife from poachers. “We want to give solar fencing to protect the wildlife. We are planning to dig the land through MGNREGA scheme and then the Forest department will do the solar fencing,” Assam forest minister Rockybul Hussain had said at an event to celebrate the wildlife week. He had also said that the population of rhinos has gone up in recent times and reached to 2,505 at present.