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Lid off vendor role in rhino poaching

Jorhat, Feb. 20: Rhino horn traders are camping at Lahorijan along the Assam-Nagaland border near Dimapur in the guise of vegetable vendors and buying horns from poachers near national parks.

This came to light following the arrest of two persons — Azijur Rahman and Abdul Rashid — at Sootea in Sonitpur district last night. The duo admitted to buying one horn from Behali in the district last month and selling it to buyers at Dimapur.

Sootea police said four persons had come from Lahorijan to buy another rhino horn in a Maruti Alto last night but lost their way and was caught by local people. While two managed to escape, locals managed to apprehend the duo and hand them over to the police.

“The vehicle they were travelling in got stuck in a puddle on a village road and when questioned by people, things came to light. While two managed to escape, the two others were caught,” a police official at Sootea police station said.

He said the two who managed to flee — Abdul Karim and Abdul Rashid — have been camping at Lahorijan as vegetable vendors to purchase rhino horns from poachers near Kaziranga and Orang national parks.

While Rahman is the driver, Abdul Rashid hails from Biswanath Chariali in Sonitpur district and acts as the local connection between poachers and traders. The police official said the arrested persons have revealed during interrogation that the four had purchased a rhino horn from Kumolia area under Behali police station in the district last month.

“This time they came to purchase another horn somewhere in Sootea and were on their way to meet the poachers but lost their way and were caught,” the official said. He said the two who escaped managed to take away the money they were carrying to purchase the horn.

“It has come to light during preliminary interrogation that the group purchases rhino horns from poachers based in Kaziranga and Orang and helps transfer these horns to Dimapur,” he said.

Rhino horns find their way to the international market through the porous international border at Moreh in Manipur. The Telegraph had reported earlier that Myanmarese nationals were involved in the rhino horn trade.

Behali police has taken the two persons arrested today into custody after they admitted their involvement in purchasing a horn from the area last month. “More things will come to light after thorough interrogation of the duo,” the official said.

He said investigations were also on to apprehend the group of poachers whom the four had come to meet. A group of forest officials from Kaziranga has also gone to Sonitpur to interrogate the duo.