The rhino carcass that was recovered on Friday. Picture by Pranab Kumar Das
Jorhat/Tezpur, Jan. 17: Poachers killed a rhino in the wee hours today and took away its horn at the sixth additional area of Kaziranga National Park on the northern bank of the Brahmaputra in Sonitpur district.
This is the second rhino of the park and in the state to be killed by poachers this year.
On January 8, poachers shot at a male rhino, which had strayed from this very zone of Kaziranga. The animal succumbed to its injuries the next day in spite of treatment by the park authorities.
However, the poachers failed to take away the rhino’s horn, which was later retrieved by the national park staff.
Assistant conservator of forests in charge of the northern range of the park, J.R. Das, told The Telegraph that the carcass of the female sub-adult was recovered this morning by the staff at Panpur ghat under Panpur camp near Goribeel. He said the rhino had been killed by a single shot from a .303 rifle. The poachers had gouged out its horn, he added.
Das said the killing was suspected to have been carried out in the wee hours, as blood was oozing from the rhino’s wounds when it was found.
He said the forest guards on duty last night did not hear any sound of firing as the area was a remote one surrounded by sandbars.
The site of the incident is nearly 22km from Jamugurihat police station of Sonitpur district, 75km from Tezpur town and 267km from Guwahati.
The Sonitpur divisional forest officer (east), A.K. Dey, said forest department officials had visited the site and are assisting the park officials in conducting search operations to apprehend the culprits.
Recently, policemen of the Sootea police station of Sonitpur district arrested two poachers — Safiqul Islam and Rafiqul Alom — and recovered a rhino horn weighing 800gm. The duo, coming from Laluk in Lakhimpur district, had been arrested from a Tezpur-bound bus from Sootea Khatwalgaon.
Kaziranga divisional forest officer S.K. Seal Sarmah said operations on foot and boat were on to apprehend the poachers and prevent other killings in the riverine areas.
Last year, poachers killed 41 rhinos across the state and of them, 28 were from Kaziranga.
Nearly 1,200 personnel — including forest guards, boatmen and the newly-raised Assam Forest Protection Force staff — are deployed across the park with SLRs, .303 and .315 rifles.
The national park, a Unesco World Heritage Site, is spread over 800 square km that includes new areas added to the north bank in the past few years. The total number of camps inside and outside the national park is 166, after eight were set up in the last two months.
Four bikes, a Winger, a minibus, an Indica, Rs 15 lakh cash, a carbine and seven .303 rifles have been recovered in anti-poaching operations while four poachers have been killed in two separate encounters last year.