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Poachers kill 21st rhino in Kaziranga

Jorhat, Dec. 16: Poachers killed yet another rhino at Kaziranga National Park, the 21st in the park this year, last night and took away its horn amidst claims of heightened security. The carcasses of two elephants, suspected to have been killed by poachers, were also recovered in Assam today.

The carcass of the female rhino was found near Barbhog anti-poaching camp in Burapahar range of the park in the wee hours today. This is the third rhino killed at Burapahar under Nagaon police station in the past month. The first was killed on November 21 and the second on December 4. Poachers had failed to take away the horn of the second rhino because of prompt action by forest guards.

Kaziranga director N.K. Vasu said spent cartridges of AK-47 and .303 rifles and double-barrelled guns were found near the rhino carcass. Forest guards launched an operation immediately upon hearing gunshots but failed to prevent the poachers from taking away the horn. “Operations are still on to apprehend the poachers.”

A senior police official in Nagaon district said the poachers could be from outside the state but locals were allegedly providing them logistical support. “Without local help it would not be possible to kill rhinos.”

The carcass of one of the elephants was recovered from Guijan wildlife range under Dibru-Saikhowa National Park in Tinsukia district. Divisional forest officer V. Mathur said the post-mortem could not be conducted today as the area is very remote but preliminary investigations suggest a case of poaching. “The head has been severed from the body,” he said.

The decomposed carcass of the other elephant, suspected to have been killed by poachers a few days ago, was found at Kawasing reserve forest in Rani area. Its trunk, tail, tusks and a large part of the body were missing.

This year, two rhinos have also been killed at Orang National Park. However, poachers failed to take away the horn of the one killed on December 6, following immediate action by forest guards.

A spurt in rhino killings in recent time has prompted the forest department and police to launch an operation against poachers. Forest officials said despite the crackdown, rhinos were killed frequently because of the heavy demand for their horns in the international market.

An officer at Diphu police station, who is associated with the crackdown, said poachers have links with horn traders in Myanmar. “Horns are smuggled to Dimapur, which then find their way to the international market through Manipur.” He said investigations show the rhino horn trade was sponsored by a gang belonging to the Paite community in Manipur. They give the poachers weapons and 25 per cent profit from each horn, which is sold for Rs 15 lakh.