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BSF to check rhino poaching in Kaziranga
Published on 25 Feb. 2010 10:57 PM IST
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The Border Security Force (BSF) will be deployed at the Kaziranga National Park in Assam to check a spurt in incidents of rhino slaughtering by organised syndicates, officials said Thursday. A wildlife department spokesman said the decision to deploy the BSF to assist forest guards at Kaziranga was taken at a high level meeting here. “The idea to rope in the BSF is aimed at assisting the park authorities so that poaching by organised gangs can be checked, besides helping in the overall protection of the park,” Assam chief wildlife warden V.K. Bishnoi told journalists. The decision to deploy BSF troopers inside the 430 sq km park comes in the wake of a renewed spurt in incidents of rhino killings for their horns. Six beasts were killed this year, 18 in 2008 and 14 in 2009. This is the first time in a decade that the number of rhinos killed in a year touched the double digit figure. Between 1980 and 1997, some 550 rhinos were killed by poachers in the wilds of Kaziranga, the highest being 48 in 1992. “In 2008, we decided to deploy the army to combat poachers but the move failed as locals protested saying the presence of the army would vitiate the atmosphere,” another wildlife official said. As per the 2009 census report, 2,048 of the world’s estimated 3,000 one-horned rhinos lumber around the swamps and grasslands of Kaziranga, their concentration here ironically making the giant mammals a favourite target of poachers. “The BSF would use their expertise, besides taking the help of sniffer dogs in conducting raids and maintaining vigil in the park,” Bishnoi said. Forest rangers complain about poor infrastructure and their obsolete weapons compared to the poachers who are armed with sophisticated assault rifles. “First of all, the number of forest guards in Kaziranga is far less than what is actually required to protect the wildlife. Then you have World War II weapons compared to AK rifles and carbines used by the poachers,” a senior forest guard working in the Kaziranga park for over 15 years said. 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. Rhino horn is also much fancied by buyers from the Middle East who turn them into handles of ornamental daggers. Profits in the illegal rhino horn trade are staggering. A rhino horn sells for up to Rs.1.5 million per kg in the international market. 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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