Bokakhat, Sept 22: Assam on Wednesday consigned to flames 2,479 rhino horns, world's largest stockpile destroyed in a single day, to bust a myth that the horns have miraculous medicinal properties.
The move by Chief Minister Himanta Biswa Sarma is part of an effort to curb poaching of the endangered one-horned Indian rhinoceros.
''We want to give a strong message to the world that the rhino alive with the horn on its head is precious to us, and not a dead animal with its pride removed by poachers or those kept in the government treasuries'', the Chief Minister said.
The ritualistic burning of the rhino horns was done publicly at Bokakhat on the occasion of World Rhino Day in the presence of the Chief minister, some of his cabinet colleagues including Forest and Environment Minister Parimal Suklabaidya and local AGP MLA and Agriculture Minister Atul Bora, senior forest department officials and conservationists in a first of its kind exercise in the country. Indian laws as well as international conventions forbids sale of body parts, whether of humans and animals, both by individuals and governments and Assam committed to follow it, Sarma said.
''A section of people have questioned us why we are burning the horns when it can be sold and the government could earn revenue. ... I ask them if it is right to sell kidneys when people are ready to pay huge amounts for them," he asked.
The Chief Minister argued that since the horns have no proven medicinal values, allowing them to be sold tantamount to cheating people and encouraging poaching. The burning of 2,479 rhino horns makes it clear that Assam will never trade in rhino horns, people of the state do not believe that the horns have medicinal values and that the living rhino will be respected and protected in their natural habitats, he said.
''Just like all communities, whether they are Hindus, Muslims or Christians, send away their beloved ones with rituals and prayers, we also decided to send our beloved to the other realm in the same manner'', he said.
There are an estimated 2,600 rhinos in Assam's Kaziranga, Manas, Orang National Parks and Pobitora wildlife sanctuaries. Poaching of the animal has declined considerably with poachers realising that during ''the tenure of this government, it will not be easy to kill an animal in the state'', the Chief Minister claimed. It has also been decided to set up a Natural History Museum at Kaziranga National Park where 94 rhino horns, extracted from those animals that had died naturally, will be kept and preserved scientifically as heritage pieces for academic purpose and public viewing, he said.
The world's largest rhino recorded, with a standing height of 42.5 cm, and the heaviest horn at 3.05 kgs, will also be on display at the Museum, Sarma said. The state Cabinet on September 16 had decided to destroy 2,479 of the 2,623 reconciled rhino horns, stockpiled in the treasuries of different districts, while 29 rhino horns, including 19 genuine and 10 fake, under court cases would be preserved with due procedures.
The Chief Minister also said in future horns of those rhinos that die naturally or in accidents will be burnt annually. He also announced that restrictions imposed due to COVID pandemic will be lifted at Kaziranga National Park from October 1 as people associated with tourism have been adversely affected with proviso that both tourists and local people associated with the trade, must be vaccinated.