Poaching overtakes floods as major killer of rhinos
By Naresh Mitra, TNN | Feb 4, 2013, 03.23 AM IST
GUWAHATI: Rhino poaching has assumed menacing proportions in Assam, with the number of one-horned pachyderms poached in recent months almost equalling the number of rhinos killed in the devastating floods that hit the state last year.
Assam experienced one of the worst floods in eight years in 2012, resulting in the death of about 28 rhinos at Kaziranga National Park between June and September last year. This is the total number of rhino deaths due to floods in the state last year.
If all the three rhino-bearing areas of Assam - Kaziranga National Park, Manas National Park and Rajiv Gandhi Orang National Park - are taken into account, the state has lost at least 29 rhinos to poaching since last year. In Kaziranga alone, at least 24 rhinos were poached between June 2012 and February this year.
Assam boasts of being home to two-thirds of the world's total population of Indian one-horned rhinos, with Kaziranga alone having over 2,000 rhinos. While floods, which claimed the lives of nearly 700 animals from different wildlife species last year, are a part of the national park's ecosystem, wildlife crime experts said the spurt in poaching in recent times will not augur well for the long-term conservation of rhinos if a foolproof mechanism for safety of the animals is not put in place right now.
"Deaths in floods are part of the natural process. But poaching poses a major threat now. Yes, there is soaring international demand for rhino horns, but we cannot allow the animals to be killed with regularity and impunity," a senior wildlife crime expert argued.
Asked about the recent arrests of poachers by the forest department, he said it did nothing to deter poachers, given the steady rise in the number of rhinos being poached.