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Rhino sits tight in waterbody

- Forest officials watch from sidelines

Jorhat, Dec. 26: A stray rhino from Kaziranga National Park has now ensconced itself in the middle of a large waterbody at Potiagaon village and refuses to budge, much to the chagrin of forest department officials who have been trying to chase it back for the past two months.

The rhino, which is about 7-8 years old, has crossed over the embankment of the Brahmaputra and entered the village.

A forest department official said it was not possible to tranquillise the rhino, which is not fully grown, as it was in an inaccessible area in the middle of the waterbody.

“If we try to tranquillise the animal, it might fall into the beel and die. The only option is to chase it back,” he said.

“All we can do is to maintain a constant vigil so that it is not harmed and killed by poachers. Onlookers are creating a ruckus wherever the rhino strays and it is becoming difficult to keep track when it darts off in fear,” he said.

Yesterday, the rhino had crossed over from Lakhimpur to Kartik sapori near Majuli and at night it had managed to get over the embankment and was sighted at Potiagaon.

The official said the rhino, along with another fully grown female rhino, had strayed from the national park two months ago, and had become a headache for the department as all the guards were engaged in keeping track of the animals in shifts.

“We have somehow managed to safeguard the animals and chased one of them back towards the national park. The information we have received is that the animal is now grazing at Lohor sapori in Golaghat district near the park,” he said.

Kaziranga divisional forest officer S.K. Seal Sarma said it was natural for rhinos to stray from the park in search of food, especially during winter, when the land gets dry and there is a scarcity of grass.

“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.

There have also been reports of people throwing sticks and stones at the animal in fear that they would be attacked.

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