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18 April, 2007 - Published 13:05 GMT
Concern over Assam rhinos
Wildlife authorities in India's north-eastern state of Assam say they are alarmed by the sudden spurt in poaching of one-horned rhinos. In the past three months six rhinos have been killed by poachers. This report from Subir Bhaumik:
A kilogram of rhino horn powder fetches nearly forty thousand US dollars at Asia's contraband markets, because it's considered an aphrodisiac and used for local medicines.
Poaching of the rhinos at Kaziranga rose sharply in the early 1990s but then dropped as both the Indian army and the Assamese separatist rebels attacked the poachers and killed many of them. The separatists said they would not tolerate the decimation of what they described as Assam's national animal and the troops often mistook the poachers as linked to rebels and shot them.
But wildlife officials say poaching of the rhinos in Kaziranga is on the rise again. Five to ten rhinos are killed every year on average, mostly during Assam's devastating floods because they have to flee Kaziranga's low marshy lands to higher hills where they cannot be guarded. But in the last three months, six rhinos have been killed inside Kaziranga and their horns taken away with no rains around.
Wildlife warden, Utpal Bora, says they suspect that an international syndicate is operating in the area, equipped with the latest telescopic rifles and electric saws to take away the horns. Mr. Bora said that more armed guards equipped with better weapons, more vehicles, boats and elephants for movement and more watchtowers are needed at Kaziranga to stop the poachers from having a free run.
Kaziranga is Assam's major tourist attraction and a cruise down the majestic Brahmaputra river to the park is very popular with foreigners.
Subir Bhaumik, BBC News, Calcutta
an international syndicate
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