Guwahati, Jan 11 (IANS): Within days of the year's first killing of a rhino at the Kaziranga National Park in Assam, carcasses of two more rhinos have been found, their horns sawed off, authorities said today.
On Jan 9, the poachers killed a one-horned rhino in Dhing in Nagaon district and escaped with its horn. The recovery of the two more carcasses Sunday has pushed the killings of rhinos to three this year, and raised the hackles of animal rights groups.
Of the two latest carcasses found Sunday morning, one was detected after a gun battle between the poachers and forest guards at Burhapahar range of the park Saturday night.
The other carcass was recovered from a sandbar in the Brahmaputra river inside Agaratoli range of the park, officials said. The animal was possibly killed a week back, and its horn was missing, they added.
"The gun battle continued till the early hours today. Today morning the forest guards recovered the carcass of a female rhino from the area. The horn was missing," said Divisional Forest Officer of the park S.K. Seal Sarma Sunday.
"Later, during the patrolling, another carcass of a male rhino was spotted on a sandbar of Brahmaputra river inside Agaratoli range of the park. The horn of the male rhino was missing too, indicating it to be a poaching case," he said. This rhino was, however, killed about a week back.
Several groups, including the All Assam Students Union (AASU), Sunday held a protest in the Kaziranga park against the unabated killings of one-horned rhinos.
AASU adviser Samujjal Bhattacharya demanded the deployment of the army to protect the endangered animals from poachers.
Assam's Governor P.B. Acharya earlier this week expressed serious concern over the rhino poaching and suggested an overhaul of the security set-up inside the park. He even castigated the forest minister and his staff, but without naming the minister.
The Assam government has over years increased the number of park security staff from 49 in 1967 to 562 in 2001. More than 430 Assam Forest protection Force (AFPF) personnel have also been deployed in the park since 2013.
Similarly, penalties have been enhanced under the amended Wildlife (Protection) Act, 1972.