Jorhat, Sept. 18: Another rhino fell prey to poachers at Kaziranga National Park last night.
In protest, AASU activists blocked National Highway 37 near the park for a couple of hours this morning and burnt the effigies of chief minister Tarun Gogoi and forest minister Rakibul Hussain for failing to stop the rampant killing of rhinos.
Forest guards claimed to have engaged in a gun-battle with the group of five poachers, who, however, managed to escape under the cover of darkness with the horn of the male rhino.
“The poachers were armed with AK-47 rifles and had fired a few rounds at the forest guards. Our men did reply but they managed to escape,” Burapahar range officer Jinaram Bordoloi told The Telegraph. He said the rhino was hit by two bullets but could not confirm whether AK-47 or other rifles were used to shoot the animal.
The bullets were embedded in the bones of the animal and although the post-mortem has been conducted, the bullets are yet to be removed, Bordoloi said.
This is the 23rd rhino to have fallen prey to poachers’ bullets in the national park this year. A few days back, another rhino of the national park died when it came charging at a group of forest guards who opened fire in self-defence in Sootea under the sixth additional area of the park in Sonitpur district.
Bordoloi said gunshots were heard near the Sarali and Bahubeel forest camps around 7.30 last evening. The forest guards responded immediately and rushed towards the area. “Our men accosted the group of poachers and a gunbattle broke out. After about a half-an-hour, we searched the area and located the carcass of the rhino about 600 metres away from the Sarali camp. But the horn was missing,” the forest official said.
This is the eighth rhino to be killed by poachers at Burapahar range. Another forest official said it could not be ascertained whether the group of poachers had escaped towards the Brahmaputra on the northern side or towards Karbi Anglong, which is across National Highway 37 on the south.
The official, however, said this particular group of poachers could be involved in the killing of more rhinos.