The death of a full grown rhino by getting trapped in mud at the Kaziranga National Park evoked widespread protests in Assam on Thursday.
Protestors blocked a national highway and burnt the effigy of the state's forest minister Rockybul Hussain to give vent to their ire. What infuriated them was the forest department's failure to rescue the animal despite getting sufficient time.
The rhino battled for life the whole day on Wednesday after getting trapped in the mud. This is the seventh rhino death at Kaziranga since January this year. Six others were gunned down by the poachers and their horns sawed off. From 2008-2013, the poachers killed as many as 88 rhinos in the state, most of them in Kaziranga.
Officials at the park said the rhino that died on Wednesday was partially paralysed.
"It was an old rhino. On being informed by the locals, our team had rushed to the area. However, veterinarians at the site said the rhino was partially paralysed due to its old age. The animal died when we were contacting experts to rescue it," divisional forest officer SK. Seal Sarma said.
"Our team had examined the rhino after being informed by forest department and locals. As we were arranging for a crane to lift it from the mud, it died," said Anjan Talukdar, a veterinarian with the Centre for Wildlife Rehabilitation and Conservation.
The protestors slammed the forest minister and demanded his removal. "The death of rhino has become a common phenomenon in Kaziranga. Why could the forest department not save the life of the animal despite getting so much of time?" asked some protestors.
"If things go on like this, the day is not far off when the park will be devoid of any rhinos," they added.
Natures Beckon, a conservation group, also slammed the forest department over the incident.
"We want the department to be sensitive. The department's lackadaisical attitude is solely responsible for the deaths of rhinos in the park," said Soumyadeep Datta, secretary general of the group.