Rhinos killed yet again in Assam, horns taken

Guwahati, Jan 29 (IANS) Suspected poachers have yet again killed two rhinos in Assam, including one near the high-security Kaziranga National Park within less than 24 hours, and decamped with their horns, forest officials said Tuesday.

While the forest officials recovered a rhino carcass Sunday night at Burhapahar range of the national park, a Unesco world heritage site, the other was recovered Tuesday morning at Silimkhowa in Karbi Anglong district.

Both the rhinos bore bullet injuries, indicating that they were killed by poachers, and their horns were chopped off, officials said.

"The rhino (the carcass of which was recovered Tuesday) had strayed outside the park and got killed," said a senior official of the Kaziranga National Park.

The fresh incidents of poaching took place at a time when the state government had in 2012 created an elite force-Assam Forest Protection Force (AFPF) and armed the personnel of the elite force with automatic weapons like Self Loading Rifles (SLRs) to match the fire power of the poachers.

On Jan 11, the forest department had recovered two rhino carcasses, one each from two isolated sandbars of the Brahmaputra river, in Morigaon and Sonitpur districts.

Again on Jan 14, forest officials recovered a rhino carcass from Manas National Park. In all the cases, the poachers had taken away the horns of the rhinos.

According to the rhino census conducted last year, there were a total of 2,505 rhinos in Assam, including 22 rhinos in Manas National Park.

However, the major concentration of rhino was in Kaziranga with a count of 2,290 rhinos followed by 93 in Pabitora Wildlife Sanctuary in Morigaon district and another 100 in the Rajiv Gandhi National Park at Orang in Darrang district.

However, over 40 one-horned rhinos were killed in 2012 in Assam. While close to 30 rhinos were killed in various protected areas due to devastating floods, more then 12 were killed by poachers, including seven of them killed inside the high security Kaziranga National park.

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