New Delhi: This is the sad saga of rhinoceros poaching in Kaziranga National Park which lies in the heart of Assam. The park has the largest population of one-horned rhinos and it is the largest area of eastern India without human disturbance. In the year 1985, the park was declared as a World Heritage site by UNESCO.
Rhino poaching for its horn is becoming a major problem in conservation of these rhinos. The poaching pressure is higher in the Kaziranga park than in any other national park. The park has a porous and hilly border with neighbouring state Nagaland, which makes it vulnerable to the poaching racket.
Horn trade in the Asian market is increasing which results in higher poaching activities of these animals. Inter-state gangs of poachers are well networked with the rhino traders. They transport the horns to South East Asian countries through the Indo-Myanmar border. These horns are used in the preparation of traditional medicines which has led to escalation of their prices in the international market.
Approximately 239 one-horned rhinos have been poached in the last 16 years. These horns are costlier than the precious metals of gold and platinum and are smuggled through human-habitated areas, villages and highways to neighbouring states like Manipur and Nagaland for international export.
The Government of Assam made amendments in the Wildlife (Protection) Act 2009. They raised the penalty for second offences against wild animals like rhinos to a minimum of 7 years and a maximum punishment of life imprisonment.
The government has also set up a special task force to protect the animals from poaching. But the lack of coordination between police forces and forest officials makes the operation against rhino poaching tough.