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Public hearing on horn burning

Guwahati, June 18: Under pressure from civil society groups to make the process of rhino horn burning transparent, the Assam forest department has decided to conduct a public hearing on the issue.

A senior official of the state forest department said the venue for burning the rhino horns could be either Guwahati or Kaziranga and the modalities would be chalked out soon.

Information on the proposed programme would be given in the newspapers, notifying the place and date.

“We will discuss the issue before the committee members on how to go about the entire process,” the official said.

Principal chief conservator of forests and head of forest force (Assam) V.K. Vishnoi has been made chairman of the 11-member state-level committee, which will oversee and monitor the entire process.

Several non-governmental organisations have urged the government to make rhino horn burning a transparent procedure.

With rhino being the state animal, the department is trying its level best to make the programme a success.

“This is, in fact, for the first time in the country that rhino horns will be destroyed and hence there are no set guidelines for it,” the official said.

The ministry of environment and forests has provided the state forest department with guidelines issued by Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora (CITES) on the process of marking of rhino horn and product stocks. It calls for measurement of rhino horns (both weight and length) and making horn registers.

The international body has also provided guidelines on security and storage of horns. To cite an instance, it talks on whether the location of all horns (and products) is known (even if kept confidential for security purposes).

The state forensic science laboratory has already informed the forest department that rhino horn is a modified form of hair composed of keratinised protein and its burning will produce only carbon, which will not pollute the environment.

The total weight of the horns was 997kg at the time of recovery.

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