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Rhino spotted near park

Jorhat, Jan. 30: Forest officials heaved a sigh of relief this afternoon after spotting a rhino which had strayed out of Kaziranga National Park on Monday.

Majuli beat officer Atul Das, who is leading a team to track the rhino, said the animal was spotted in a village in Lahor Chapori this afternoon and had blood stains near its ears. But it could not be ascertained whether the injury was from a bullet or the thorns of a plant.

“As the animal was moving fast, it seems the injury is not serious,” he added.

Forest personnel are following the animal.

Das said the rhino was last reported seen at Bamun Chapori near Latlongia forest camp under Numaligarh beat. The sixth addition to Agaratali range of Kaziranga is not far from the area and the animal is expected to enter it, he added.

Armed forest officials have been scouring the countryside in boats, vehicles, motorcycles and on foot trying to locate the rhino.

Jorhat and Golaghat forest divisions had launched a massive operation along the Brahmaputra and its chaporis (sandbars) to track the rhino.

Two teams from Jorhat, each comprising six personnel, have been camping on a chapori since yesterday.

Another two teams, together comprising 16 men, from Numaligarh and Bokial beats of Golaghat division, joined the drive today.

“We were on high alert lest something untoward befell the rhino,” a forest official said.

Kaziranga National Park director N.K. Vasu told The Telegraph from Guwahati that he had alerted the Jorhat, Golaghat and Sonitpur forest divisions on Monday after receiving a report from the park’s staff that a rhino had strayed out and was moving east.

He asked the forest divisions to track down and follow the animal to keep it safe from poachers.

Vasu said according to the latest information, the rhino was retreating towards the park.

Jorhat divisional forest officer N.K. Malakar said the team led by Das was moving along the chaporis since Monday night by camping at Sikali Chapori.

Jorhat range officer Pankaj Kalita said the team had been following the rhino on the basis of footprints found in the chaporis and from information provided by the local people.

Straying rhinos have been easy meat for poachers over the years and at least three such rhinos have been killed this year and their horns taken away.

The department is under severe strain following last year’s mayhem during which 21 rhinos fell to poachers’ bullets in the state. The toll this year is already five, including the three which strayed.