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Poachers escape after killing rhino

Jorhat, Oct. 13: Poachers gouged out the horn of another rhino while it was still alive in Kaziranga National Park this afternoon.

Forest officials said their staff launched an operation in Agoratoli range soon after they heard gunshots near Sohola beel around 2pm and accosted a group of poachers. A gun-battle broke out but the poachers managed to escape, leaving behind a .303 rifle. An operation is on to apprehend them.

A Kaziranga official said the injured rhino was found in an area between Sohola and Duramari anti-poaching camps in Agoratoli, but it died soon after.

This takes the number of Kaziranga rhinos killed by poachers to 17 since January this year, including the six killed in the last week of September.

Two of them died after poachers chopped off the horns and left them bleeding on September 26 and 27.

The incident comes a day after the Congress announced in a meeting at Kaziranga that a series of measures would be taken to tackle poaching in the park, which has been rocked by a spate of rhino killings recently. During a visit to the world heritage site on Thursday, Union forest and environment minister Jayanthi Natarajan had announced a Rs 1-crore package for development of infrastructure in the park and had promised to provide an unmanned aircraft to keep tabs on rhino poachers.

In another incident, a timber smuggler received bullet injuries during an encounter with forest staff at Dibru-Saikhowa National Park early this morning.

The timber smuggler, identified as Ajoy Nipun of Dhodia village, has been admitted to Assam Medical College and Hospital in Dibrugarh.

A park official said a group of nearly 10 timber smugglers was accosted by forest staff at Kolia, in the easternmost corner of the national park, around 5am. The smugglers opened fire at the forest staff. One of them was injured in retaliatory firing while the others managed to escape.

Poacher arrested

A poacher and six traders dealing in rhino horns were arrested from Nagaon and neighbouring Karbi Anglong districts, according to a PTI report from Nagaon.

Poacher Rajen Ingti was arrested from Kohan Basti on Nagaon-Karbi Anglong boundary today, police sources said.

Four of the six illegal horn dealers, all from Karbi Anglong, were apprehended from Bokolia and the rest from Rojapathar village.

The six were returning last night after a failed attempt to strike a deal for buying a rhino horn from Karbi Peoples’ Liberation Tigers (KPLT) “chairman” Ron Rongpi, the sources said. The six have been identified as B. Jangkha from Nagaland, Sona Dey, Tenjit Terang, Suren Gupta, Babu Timung and Robin Ronghang. Police alleged the dealers were involved with poachers in the killing of rhinos for sale. The KPLT chairman had demanded Rs 80 lakh for the horn, while the six were offering Rs 60 lakh, the police added.