| The carcass of the female rhino killed in Kaziranga on Tuesday night. Telegraph picture |
Jorhat, Sept. 4: The killing of rhinos continued at Kaziranga National Park with yet another falling prey to poachers’ bullets at the Bagori range last night.
The carcass of the female rhino was recovered early this morning.
The incident took place barely four days after another rhino was killed at the Bagori range of the park on Saturday.
Altogether 20 rhinos, including the one killed yesterday, have fallen to poachers at the world heritage site this year, three of them last month.
A Kaziranga official said gunshots were heard late last evening near Tunikati forest camp and forest guards launched an operation immediately. However, the operation had to be called off because of heavy rain.
The carcass of the rhino, with its horn missing, was recovered during a search this morning.
“We believe that the poachers are still holed up inside the forest and operations are still on to apprehend them,” the forest official said.
He said it could be the same group of poachers who were involved in the killing the rhino near Kanchanjuri forest camp on Saturday.
On August 21, poachers shot dead a male and a female rhino at Burapahar range of the park. However, the poachers managed to take away the horn of only one rhino, as the forest guards had arrived and a gun battle ensued. The poachers managed to flee to the Karbi Anglong hills. That was the first time two rhinos were killed together at Kaziranga, which has over 2,000 rhinos.
The official said there was information about poachers being helped by local villagers with information about the movement of rhinos. He said poachers buy information from villagers on rhinos. “They are said to pay well. The villagers also provide logistical support,” he added.
The official said the Kaziranga authorities have been trying to convince the villagers not to get lured into helping poachers. Instead, they must try to help the forest department protect the rhinos, he said.
“We have been holding awareness meetings regularly among the villagers and also implementing self-employment schemes in the villages located on the fringe areas of the park,” he said.
He said many villagers have also been providing information to the forest department about movement of poachers.
On July 25, two poachers were killed at the park and two others earlier this year and 70 arrested followed by huge recovery of arms and ammunition.
A 1,200-security force, comprising forest guards and Assam Forest Protection Force, patrol a total park area of 880 square km after it was extended from 430 square km.
Notwithstanding poaching cases in the park, the rhino population in the world heritage site has seen a rise to 2,329, according to the census conducted in March. There was an addition of 39 rhinos to the previous census figure of 2,290. In 1999, the figure was 1,672, which increased to 2,048 in 2009.