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Kaziranga: Fifth rhino falls victim to poachers this year
K Anurag in Guwahati | February 05, 2008 13:22 IST
Last Updated: February 05, 2008 17:20 IST
Making a mockery of the Assam government's much trumpeted commitment to protect the endangered rhinoceros in Kaziranga National Park, poachers killed another rhino in the park and took away its horn in the wee hours of Tuesday.
This was the fifth rhino to be killed by poachers in the state so far this year and the fourth one to be killed inside Kaziranga National Park, a UNESCO World Heritage Site.
Director of the National Park S N Buragohain said the male rhino was killed in the central Kohra Range of the Park in the wee hours of Tuesday. Though forest guards from near by camps rushed in the direction of the gunshots, the poachers managed to flee with the horn.
The park director said raids were being conducted in some suspected poachers' dens in the vicinity of the park in search of the horn and the gang of poachers.
Animal activists and the public in the state have been demanding stringent measures from the government to tackle the alarming threat of poachers in the rhino abode in the wake of killing of several rhinos since in 2007 in the 860 square kilometre rhino habitat.
In a macabre incident, a gang of poachers gouged out the horn of a female rhino and shot dead her three-year-old calf in the eastern fringe of Kaziranga National Park on January 19, 2007. The seriously injured rhino died next day.
That incident had triggered massive protests in the state, forcing the government to form a high-powered committee to prescribe recommendations for effective wildlife policing in the national park.
The committee, in its report submitted to the government, suggested several measures including infusion of young blood in field duty in the rhino abode, arming the wildlife personnel with sophisticated arms and weapons, setting up of an intelligence network in cooperation with fringe villagers and establishment of better coordination with the state police in fighting poachers.
Assam forest minister Rockybul Hussain on Tuesday assured to step up vigil in the park. He said five watch-towers and 25 new guard camps would be set up along National Highway 37 that runs along the southern fringe of the park.
A mobile squad would be appointed, while five rapid action units would also be constituted through appointment of additional 100 armed home guards immediately, he added.
He admitted that there was need for increasing the strength of field staff in the national park from the present 437 as the park area had been expanded to about 860 square kilometres from the earlier 430 square kilometres.