Army to help check rhino poaching in Kaziranga

July 26th, 2008 - 5:14 pm ICT by IANS  

Kaziranga (Assam), July 26 (IANS) Indian authorities in the northeastern state of Assam have deployed the army at the famed Kaziranga National Park to control a spurt in incidents of rhino slaughtering by organised poaching syndicates, officials said Saturday. A wildlife department spokesman said the commander of the 2nd Mountain Artillery Brigade under the Eastern Command headquarters based in Kolkata was appointed the honorary wildlife warden of Kaziranga National Park.

“A notification to this effect was issued recently by the Assam governor with the army asked to assist park authorities for enforcing the legislations under the Wildlife Act of 1972, besides creating awareness and helping in building an interface between locals and wildlife officials,” S.N. Buragohain, chief warden of the Kaziranga National Park, told IANS.

The decision to deploy army soldiers was taken with poachers killing 20 rhinos for their horns inside the 430 sq km park last year. That was the first time in a decade that the number of rhinos killed in a year touched the double digit figure. Six rhinos were killed so far this year.

“We sincerely believe the army’s presence would help bring down incidents of poaching of rhinos,” the park warden said.

Soldiers have already taken positions along the park and have started working in tandem to check poaching of rhinos and other wildlife. As per latest figures, some 1,855 of the world’s estimated 2,700 one-horned rhinos lumber around the wilds of Kaziranga - their concentration here ironically making the giant mammals a favourite target of poachers.

Eight other army units were also asked to undertake similar anti-poaching drives in at least six other national parks and sanctuaries in the state.

“The army would work in close cooperation with the wildlife authorities and we expect to get the desired results soon,” a senior Assam wildlife department official said.

Organised poachers kill rhinos for their horns, which many believe contain aphrodisiac qualities, besides being used as medicines for curing fever, stomach ailments and other diseases in parts of south and east Asia.

Rhino horn is also much fancied by buyers from the Middle East who turn them into handles of ornamental daggers.

Profits in the illegal rhino horn trade are staggering - it sells for up to Rs.1.5 million ($38,000) per kg in the international market after the horns are smuggled to China or sold in other clandestine Asian markets.

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