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Rhino killed in Pobitora

- Guards gun down two poachers, hunt on for others

Guwahati, March 26: Rhino killing continued unabated in Assam with one more falling to poachers at Pobitora wildlife sanctuary in Morigaon district of central Assam in the wee hours today.

Two poachers were also killed during the exchange of fire with forest guards.

This is the first rhino to be killed in Pobitora wildlife sanctuary this year with Kaziranga National Park bearing the brunt of the killings.

The incident happened near the Tuplung area of the sanctuary when gunshots were heard, forcing the guards to conduct a search operation.

“A carcass was found in the area. The guards saw the group and started firing. Two were killed while the rest fled,” a park official said.

The horn of the rhino was taken away.

One of the poachers is from Churachandpur district of Manipur. A driving licence and a mobile phone were found on them.

“We will analyse the call details to get more clues,” the official said. Operations are still on to catch the other members of the gang.

Assam chief wildlife warden R.P. Agarwalla went to the spot this evening and called for sustained operations against the poachers. “We have kept the pressure on and two were killed in Kaziranga recently,” he said.

A number of students’ organisations have expressed anger at the unabated killing of rhinos and have called for strict action.

Aaranyak, an NGO which has been working on rhino conservation issues, said Dimapur in Nagaland and Moreh in Manipur are major trade points of rhino horns that are going out of Assam in the past five years.

“The Centre and state governments must pull all resources to catch the traders immediately to save our rhinos,” Bibhab Talukdar, secretary general of Aaranyak, said. The NGO said the state government should put more emphasis on catching the poachers and the trade kingpins, and put them behind bars.

“Analysis of researchers working on wildlife trade indicates that an international gang of rhino poachers, which is mostly operating in South Africa at present, may be allured to spread its area of operations to Assam, being encouraged by the present situation. In that case, if our security and legal systems remain weak, rhinos would vanish from Assam in no time. As such, we urge the government and elected representatives to put rhino-protection high on the agenda and ensure safety to the remaining animals,” the NGO said.

In Manas, the carcass of a Royal Bengal tiger was recovered today. Officials said it died because of infighting.