There were 1,855 rhinos in Kaziranga: UNESCO

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Kaziranga, Sep17: Kaziranga, the world's most protected wildlife sanctuary, have now turned into killing fields for rhinos. As the authorities were preparing for post flood management within the park, news of another rhino being killed by poachers arrived here last Saturday. By now, 17 rhinos have been killed in the sanctuary this year.

Baffling police and forest officials, policy makers and the ministers, incidents of animals being killed in this sactuary keep rising. Amongst these, 14 had been killed by poachers, while three drowned in the flood.

''We have done everything within our capacity, but the poachers have been successful once again,'' rued Forest Minister Rockeybull Hussain, being angry at being unable to stop the poaching.

According to forest official sources, five had been killed outside the park area in different parts of Upper Assam as they were believed to have left the park looking for food last year during the drought period. Some moved out after the flood inundated most of the Park area.

Divisional Forest Officer(DFO) Bankim Sharma said the poachers had killed one rhino in Rangajan section of Hatikhuli Tea estate on Saturday but quick movement of the guards compelled them to flee leaving the horn intact. The horn had no value for the guards but failure by poachers to take away the horn means more killings are in the offing.

Chief Conservator of Forest Mohan Malakar was worried over the rise in rhino deaths. He had apprised the ministers of the situation and urged them to consider strengthening the number of officers and sentries. Manning the 440 square kms pristine forest under 15 feet deep water turned out to be difficult for the forest conservation officers.

Both the forest and police authorities were unanimous that all the poachers came from Manipur, Nagaland and Karbi Anglong with Manipur topping the list in the largest number of poachers, as they could smuggle the animals out of the country through Moreh.

According to the 2005 census, there were 1,855 rhinos in Kaziranga, which is also a World Heritage Site declared by the UNESCO. Looking at the continuous strikes, the intelligence agencies are trying to ascertain whether any terrorist groups were involved in the poaching, as rhino horn could be a good barter for arms consignment, enlightened forest officials here.

According to forest official sources, a rhino horn weighing one kg, costs 10,000 dollars in the International market. Organised poachers kill rhinos for horns, which many believe contain aphrodisiac qualities, besides being used as medicines for curing fever, stomach ailments and other diseases in parts of South Asia.

Rhino horn was also much fancied by buyers from the West Asia, who turn them into handles of ornamental daggers. In some Asian countries horn was believed to be used as the zoological alternative of Viagra. Though it was scientifically denied still then rhino horns were in great demand throughout the Arab world.


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