Jorhat, Jan. 17: Villagers of Na-Pamua, about 100km from Kaziranga National Park, watched in shock as three rhinos trotted through the village and attacked two persons this morning.
“I have seen rhinos only at Kaziranga and Assam State Zoo. I was surprised when I saw the rhinos near my house this morning,” said Bholaram Das, who helped the injured persons.
Forest department sources said three teams of the forest department have been deployed to track the two adult rhinos, a male and a female, and a calf and chase them towards the park.
Sources said the rhinos are a part of a group of 10 that had strayed out of the park over a month ago and had moved towards east of the park through chaporis (sandbars).
Jogen Bora, a senior forester of the Jorhat forest range office, said the rhino family was spotted by some villagers near Na-Pamua gaon, nearly 13km from the town, last evening, but the department was not informed.
Around 5.30am today, Prabin Das, 35, and Babul Das, 26, from the nearby Jankhana were returning home after releasing their cattle for grazing, when they suddenly came face to face with the rhinos at Dubanipathar.
Before the two could react, the animals attacked them, resulting in injuries on their knees and legs.
Both have been admitted to Jorhat Medical College and Hospital and are out of danger.
Bora said the people of the area had seen the rhinos moving into a nearby thick swamp.
Three teams of five men each armed with .303 rifles and double-barrelled guns were moving along the Brahmaputra in different locations to track the rhinos. He said some footprints of the animals have been traced by one of the teams and search in the adjoining swamp and bushes was on.
Jorhat forest range officer Pankaj Kalita said it has been a month-and-a-half that a five-member team led by Majuli beat officer Atul Das has been camping on different chaporis in the western tip of the island bordering Jorhat and Golaghat forest divisions to protect the straying rhinos from poachers, who find it easier to kill the animals outside the park. Poachers killed three such rhinos in the past two months.
Kalita said the team has been keeping a watch on the animals round-the-clock, moving on motor bikes and country boats, but at night it is very difficult to follow them as they are camouflaged in thick vegetation in the chaporis.
The range officer said a wandering herd of elephants, which moved along the Brahmaputra a month back, was also creating havoc in the riverine areas.
The herd damaged about 70 houses, including farmhouses and granaries.
He said from dusk-to-dawn everyday, an anti-depredation squad of seven staff has been on duty to keep the elephants at bay.