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Rhino dies, poachers shot dead

Jorhat, Feb. 27: A rhino, which fell into a waterbody on the fringes of Kaziranga National Park yesterday morning, died late last night triggering protest from several organisations which blamed the forest department for not doing enough to save the animal.

The incident, however, failed to deter the spirit of the forest guards who achieved success this morning by managing to stop a poaching attempt and killed two poachers in an encounter in the Burapahar range of the park.

The joy was, however, short lived as the carcass of another rhino was found 5km from the Burapahar range this afternoon. It is believed that the same gang of poachers was involved in the killing of the rhino. While three of the five-member gang escaped, two died in the shootout with the forest guards.

This is the 8th rhinos which fell to poachers’ bullets at Kaziranga this year.

Forest officials said the male rhino, which got stuck in a waterbody near Borbeel Mising village on the fringes of the Bagori range of the national park yesterday, died around 10 last night.

“The rhino was old and weak and got stuck in the waterbody after it had gone there to drink water. We did provide treatment and tried to rescue the rhino from the waterbody but it could not move its hind position and died,” Kaziranga veterinarian Debo Mohon Saikia told The Telegraph.

The incident has triggered protest from several quarters with organisations, including the AJYCP, alleging that the forest department has done nothing to save the rhino.

Activists of a few organisations also blocked National Highway 37 near the national park in protest against the incident and burnt an effigy of forest minister Rakibul Hussain.

A Kaziranga official, however, said it was natural for old rhinos to die in this manner. “Had we tried to pull out the rhino out from the waterbody it would have died then and there,” he said.

He said since the incident took place outside the park and was witnessed by the villagers, it spread a wrong message. “These incidents are quite common inside the national park. It is quite common for old animals to die under similar circumstances.”

Kaziranga divisional forest official S.K. Seal Sarma said a single-barrel gun and ammunition were recovered from the two poachers, who were killed near the Tunikati forest camp under the Burapahar range of the national park in the wee hours today.

He said the forest guards accosted a group of five poachers in the particular area around 3am today and a gun-battle broke out. “While three poachers managed to escape, two died in the encounter. They have not yet been identified,” he said.

The Kaziranga official said it appeared that the two poachers were not locals.

Seal Sarma said several groups of poachers were roaming the park, trying to kill rhinos. “Our men are working round the clock and we achieved this success because of their alertness,” he said.