|One of the rhinos at a field in Lakhimpur district.
Picture by UB Photos
Jorhat, Dec. 22: Hundreds of onlookers have made life difficult for the forest department and have put the lives of two rhinos, which have strayed out of Kaziranga National Park, in danger.
The two rhinos — believed to be a mother and calf — had strayed out of Kaziranga about a month back and are at present taking shelter at Majuli island and adjacent Lakhimpur district respectively.
With hundreds of onlookers chasing the two animals since the duo appeared in Majuli about a week ago, the mother and the calf got separated in the ensuing melee.
“The larger rhino, probably the mother, returned from Lakhimpur yesterday and is on its way back to Kaziranga. However, there is no news of the smaller rhino. It was sighted at Lakhimpur-Arunachal Pradesh border on Friday. Probably it had crossed over to Arunachal Pradesh. We have not sighted it today,” divisional forest officer of Kaziranga National Park S.K. Seal Sarma said.
He said the forest department has been trying desperately to chase back the two rhinos to the national park but it has become a Herculean task because of the onlookers.
The rhinos had wounded at least four persons in Lakhimpur and Majuli in the past few days.
A forest official in Majuli said one of the rhinos crossed the Brahmaputra last night and reached Neematighat in Jorhat and is trudging towards Kaziranga.
“But we fear it would return to look for the calf. The rhino has turned aggressive because of the constant harassment from the onlookers and being separated from the calf,” the official said.
He said the rhino has also turned weak, as it has not been able to feed properly in the past few days because of the constant commotion.
The official said had it not been for the onlookers, the two rhinos would have returned to Kaziranga long back. “We have been trying desperately to make them return to Kaziranga but the presence of the villagers has not made it possible. This has also resulted in the two rhinos getting separated,” he said.
The Kaziranga DFO said it was natural for rhinos to stray out of the park in search of food, especially during winter when the land gets dry.
“Rhinos are vulnerable when they stray out as they can fall easy prey to poachers. We are trying to keep a close watch on the two animals but it is not an easy task as the animals are constantly on the move,” he said.
Earlier this month, a team of forest personnel tracking the rhinos engaged in a gun battle with a group of poachers at Mandir Sapori, a sandbar on the Brahmaputra bordering Jorhat and Golaghat districts.