Poachers kill another rhino in Kaziranga


Guwahati : An endangered one-horned rhino was killed by poachers inside the Kaziranga National Park in Assam, the eighth such beast to have been slaughtered so far this year, officials Thursday said.

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A wildlife official said forest guards Wednesday recovered the carcass of an adult male rhino bereft of its horn near a marshy area in the 430-square-kilometre (166-square-mile) sanctuary, 220 km east of Assam's main city of Guwahati.

"The poachers used sophisticated weapons to kill the rhino and managed to take away its horn," Assam's chief wildlife warden M.C. Malakar said.

Seven rhinos have been killed by poachers since January in Kaziranga, while forest rangers shot dead two poachers in April inside the park.

Wildlife authorities in April launched a massive anti-poaching offensive deploying an additional 50 forest rangers and 30 armed guards in Kaziranga.

"All our rangers are in maximum alert with round-the-clock vigil intensified all along the park and its periphery," a park warden said.

Poachers have been able to take advantage with the park now partially submerged in floodwaters of the Brahmaputra river.

"It is physically impossible to guard every inch of the park," the warden said.

In April, wildlife officials headed by Assam forest minister Rockybul Hussain announced an emergency action plan to check rhino poaching at Kaziranga, home to an estimated 1,855 rhinos. There are a total of about 2,700 such herbivorous animals in the world.

"The plan includes deployment of additional contingents of armed guards, setting up of Wildlife Crime Control Committees, besides assisting villagers in the fringe areas by taking up community development projects to enlist their support in fighting poachers," the minister said.

Experts believe the rhino's horns, which purportedly stimulate sexual desire, are smuggled to China or sold in other clandestine Asian markets.

Buyers from the Middle East also use the horns to make ornamental dagger handles. Estimates suggest the horns can sell for up to $35,000 per kilogramme (2.2 pounds).

Five rhinos were poached last year and seven were killed in 2005.

"Between 2003 and 2005, as many as 13 poachers have been shot dead, while nearly 100 of them arrested in the last three years," Hussain said.

About 500 rhinos have been killed by poachers over the past 20 years, according to government estimates.