Rhino poaching bid in Kaziranga foiled

Rhino poaching bid in Kaziranga foiled

Suspected rhino poachers arrested on Saturday night. Photo credit: Assam forest department.

A "veteran poacher" and four others, who were allegedly planning to kill rhinos at Kaziranga National Park in Assam were arrested by a joint team of newly deployed special rhino protection force and forest department personnel on Saturday night.

Forest department officials said that Arfan Ali, who was arrested twice earlier for killing two rhinos in Kaziranga and Ramkiuba, and a "sharp shooter" from Dimapur in neighbouring Nagaland were arrested around 9 pm during a checking on NH-15 near Borgang in North Assam's Biswanath district.

Based on their confession, three others— Mintu Hazarika, Tunmoni Saikia and Puniram Das— were subsequently arrested.

"Ali and Ramkiuba, who is also known as John, were coming from Biswanath Charilai to Behali for poaching rhino in Kaziranga with the help of a local poachers group. But we managed to nab them and thereby foiled a poaching bid. Another veteran poacher, who was carrying equipment to kill rhinos fled and we are trying to nab him. The Assam forest protection force and the special rhino protection force were part of the operation," said a statement issued by the office of Assam forest minister Parimal Suklabaidya.

The rhinos in the 434-sq km Kaziranga, a Unesco world heritage site and a tourist attraction, have been a target of poachers, who kill them and sell the horns to the international gang of smugglers.

The year 2013 and 2014 saw the highest number of poaching  (27 in each year) followed by 17 in 2015, 18 in 2016 and six each in 2017 and 2018.

Three rhinos have been killed this year so far in the park.

The arrest comes barely a week after the 82-member special rhino protection force, raised in the line of tiger protection force of National Tiger Conservation Authority (NTCA), were deployed in Kaziranga.

With 2,413 rhinos (2018 census), Kaziranga is the home to the world's largest number of one-horned rhinos.

Assam has a total of 2,649 rhinos, of which 102 are in Pobitora wildlife sanctuary, 100 in Orang National Park and 34 in Manas National Park, another world heritage site, bordering Bhutan.