Guwahati, March 12: The rhino is being hounded by predators, and not only of the two-legged kind.
Royal Bengal tigers, which usually prey on baby rhinos, have begun killing adult ones in Kaziranga National Park since the last fortnight.
Alarmed by this development, a team of experts from the Wildlife Institute of India (WII), Dehradun, will arrive at the national park tomorrow on a weeklong visit to survey the “phenomenon”.
Authorities at Kaziranga National Park have also informed the chief conservator of forests of the new trend.
Tigers killed 20 rhinos at Kaziranga last year, while this year eight rhinos have fallen prey to the big cats.
“The worrying part is that tigers have started killing full grown rhinos. Earlier it was only the calves the tigers used to attack but now the full grown rhinos are being targeted,” said Bankim Sharma, the divisional forest official of the park.
Last evening, three tigers, probably a mother and her two grown calves, attacked an adult rhino near the East Haldhibari anti-poaching camp in the Kohora range of the park.
“It must have taken several hours for the tigers to nail the rhino. The entire area looked like a war zone with crushed grass and plants. The rhino had probably given up when it got stuck in the mud in a nearby water body,” the forest official said.
Forest officials later retrieved the rhino’s horn.
On February 26, a pregnant rhino was killed by tigers at Rutikhowa beel under Bagori range.
Gunin Saikia, another forest at Kaziranga, said there have been no instances of tigers attacking full grown rhinos till now.
Saikia said female rhinos generally venture out of the park along with their calves at night to escape from tiger attacks, since rhino calves are easy prey for tigers.
“But tigers always keep away from full grown rhinos,” he said.
The divisional forest official said male rhinos usually stay alone and tigers are finding it easier to prey on them than buffaloes, which stay in large groups.
There has been an increase in tiger population in the park, which could be another reason for the attacks on rhinos, he said.
According to the last census conducted in 2000, 86 rhinos were found in Kaziranga.
“There is no doubt that the figure has gone up since then,” the divisional forest official said.