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Poachers kill another rhino

Jorhat, Dec. 7: Assam has turned into a killing field for wildlife with another rhino falling prey to poachers’ bullets at Orang National Park.

The park’s divisional forest officer, Sushil K. Daila, said, “The female rhino died of bullet injuries last evening. We recovered the carcass from near Amulya anti-poaching camp in the wee hours. The horn was intact. The poachers failed to take it away as our guards reacted immediately.”

Yesterday, two elephants had died and one was grievously injured in three incidents in Goalpara, Lakhimpur and Sivasagar districts. Poachers killed one elephant at Dulong reserve forest in Lakhimpur while another died of electrocution in a tea estate in Sivasagar. Another elephant with its tusks missing was found in a mud pit in Goalpara. It is still battling for life. On Tuesday, two elephants were electrocuted in Golaghat district while poachers killed a rhino in Kaziranga.

Daila said gunshots were heard around 5.30 last evening near Amulya and Singbethi camps and forest guards of both the camps reacted swiftly. “It was dark so our guards could not see the group of poachers but they fired in the direction from where the sound of gunshots came from.” Immediately, all the forest camps were alerted and a search operation, using elephants, was launched inside the park.

Daila said empty cartridges of .303 rifle and double-barrel guns were recovered from near the area where the carcass was found. Two empty liquor bottles and orange peels were found near Jorabangha camp, which confirmed that a group of poachers had camped in the area. “We have also detected footprints which indicate that there were at least four persons in the gang. Operations are on to apprehend the group,” he added.

This is the second rhino killed at Orang, considered to be a miniature Kaziranga, this year. The smallest national park in the state, which stretches over Darrang and Sonitpur districts, has 100 rhinos. Forest guards in the park have, throughout the year, foiled several attempts by poachers to kill rhinos.

Two poachers were also killed in an encounter with forest guards early this year. Forest officials are of the view that increasing demand for rhino horns in the international market has led to a spate in rhino killings in recent times.

Kaziranga National Park, considered to be the home for one-horned rhinos, has witnessed the killing of 20 rhinos this year. The last killing took place on December 4 at Burapahar range.

The carcass of a Royal Bengal tiger was also recovered from near the Bornoloni anti-poaching camp under the Agaratoli range of Kaziranga National Park this afternoon. Forest officials suspect the male tiger may have died of infighting. “The cause of death would be known only after post mortem, which would be conducted tomorrow,” he said.