Two poachers killed in Kaziranga, rhino found dead (Lead)

December 13th, 2010 - 3:41 pm ICT by IANS  

Guwahati, Dec 13 (IANS) Two poachers were killed in a gunfight with wildlife rangers at the Kaziranga National Park in Assam Monday after a gang entered the area and killed a rhino, an official said.A wildlife warden said a group of about four to six poachers entered the park early Monday and shot dead an adult female rhino near the Agoratoli range and extracted its horn.

“On hearing the gunshots, a team of forest guards gave the poachers a chase and soon there was a gunfight between the two sides,” he said.

The encounter lasted about 30 minutes during which two poachers were killed, while the others managed to escape.

A rifle, a large quantity of ammunition, jungle boots, food and raincoats were also recovered, he added.

This is the second major success of forest rangers this year. Four rhino poachers were killed and seven arrested in May.

The 430 sq km park is home to the world’s largest concentration of one-horned rhinos. As per the 2009 census, some 2,048 of the world’s estimated 3,000 one-horned rhinos lumber around the swamps and grasslands of Kaziranga.

Ten rhinos were killed so far this year, while 18 were killed in 2008 and 14 in 2009.

Between 1980 and 1997, some 550 rhinos were killed by poachers in the wilds of Kaziranga, the highest being 48 in 1992.

Poachers kill rhinos for their horn, which many believe contains aphrodisiac qualities, besides being used for curing fever, stomach ailments and other diseases in parts of Asia.

Rhino horns are also much fancied by buyers from the Middle East who turn them into handles of ornamental daggers, while elephant ivory tusks are primarily used for making ornaments and decorative items.

A rhino horn sells for up to Rs.1.5 million per kilogram in the international market, according to officials of the forest department.

Once extracted, the rhino horn is routed to agents in places like Dimapur in Nagaland, Imphal in Manipur and Siliguri in West Bengal. They are also smuggled to Kathmandu in Nepal via Siliguri.

The horns are also smuggled via the Manipur-Myanmar border, from where they are transported to countries like Thailand, Vietnam, Singapore and China.

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