Poachers kill two rhinos in Assam

April 28th, 2008 - 10:45 pm ICT by admin  

Guwahati, April 28 (IANS) Two rhinos, including a calf, were killed Monday by organized poacher gangs at the Kaziranga National Park in Assam, officials said here. A wildlife official said the poacher gangs, armed with sophisticated weapons, shot dead the mother rhino and her calf at Agoratoli forest camp inside the park.

“The poachers were able to take away the horns after killing the rhinos,” a park warden said.

The poachers have so far killed six rhinos in the 430 square km park this year in separate incidents.

As per latest figures, some 1,855 of the world’s estimated 2,700 rhinos are known to live in the wilds of Kaziranga - their numbers, ironically, making the giant mammals a favourite target for poaching.

Last year, 18 rhinos were killed by poachers, the first time in a decade that the number of rhinos killed in a year touched a double-digit figure in the park.

Between 1980 and 1997, some 550 rhinos were killed by organized poacher gangs in Kaziranga - the highest being 48 in 1992.

There was a reduction in the number poached between 1998 and 2006 with just 47 killed - the decrease attributed to intensive protection mechanisms and a better intelligence network, coupled with support from local villagers living on the periphery of the park.

“The demand for rhino has always been there and with the rhino population decreasing in other sanctuaries, especially in Nepal, the pressure is increasing on Kaziranga,” the warden said.

Organized 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 Asia.

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

Once extracted, the rhino horn is routed to agents in places like Dimapur in Nagaland, Imphal in Manipur and Siliguri in West Bengal.

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