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Rhino Poaching in Assam Park Draws Concern

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WWF-India today expressed concern about the recent poaching of a rhinoceros, which was reportedly killed on January 13 in Manas National Park of Assam.

WWF-India's field team identified the poached rhino to be Rhino 2 which was transgerred to Manas from the Pobitora Wildlife Sanctuary in April 2008.

"It was the third rhino that has been poached in Manas," a WWf-India official said.

In a press statement, WWF-India reported that between 2008 and 2012, a total of 18 rhinos had been transferred to Manas, and three rhinos were killed in the past 18 months.

The first rhino carcass was recovered on October 14, 2011 named as the Rhino 1 which was transferred from Pobitora Wildlife Sanctuary.

The second carcass, that of Rhino 12 was located Chengmarijhar in the Bhuyapara Range of the Park on May 23, 2012 with its horn chopped off. Two bullets, one from a .303 bore rifle and another of an automatic assault rifle were recovered from the carcass.

Rhino 12 was an adult female which was from the first batch of rhinos captured at Kaziranga National Park on February 19, 2012 and released at Manas National Park on February 20, 2012.

"It seems that the authorities of Manas National Park, and the State Forest Department, have not learned lessons from the earlier poaching incidents and as a result one more rhino was killed. The recent poaching has been reported from the Bhatgali area within the Basbari Range of the Park. It is important to note that the site where the carcass has been located is within 3 km of three anti-poaching camps, namely Bhatgali, Kahibari and Fort. Clearly, the patrolling supposed to be carried out by the frontline staff of the Park posted in these camps was not being carried out effectively," WWF-India said.

WWF-India reported that the radio-collar fitted on the third rhino appears to have fallen off during November 2012, which meant that it could no longer be monitored remotely.

WWF-India added that since then, it became imperative to conduct regular elephant and foot patrols to ensure security for this rhino.

WWF-India official said the rhino was last located by a WWF-India field team on December 31, 2012. Following this, efforts were on by the frontline staff of the Park to track the animal but these were found to be insufficient and ultimately it fell prey to poachers.

WWF is increasingly concerned about the level of commitment of the Assam State Forest Department and the Bodoland Territorial Council in providing protection to the translocated rhinos in Manas. These rhinos have been transferred to Manas under the aegis of the Indian Rhino Vision 2020, a joint program of the Assam State Forest Department, Bodoland Territorial Council, International Rhino Foundation, US Fish and Wildlife Service and WWF-India and all partners have pledged their commitment to the program of bringing rhinos back to Manas.

However, the primary responsibility of ensuring the security of the rhinos rests with the State Government and its various departments and without their full attention to this, there is a danger that the vision of Indian Rhino Vision 2020 will not be achieved.

WWF urged the Assam State Government, the State Forest Department and the Bodoland Territorial Council, to take exemplary action so that these kind of unlawful incidents are averted in future.

WWF-India also urged the Assam State Government and the Bodoland Territorial Council to immediately enhance protection within the Manas National Park and ensure that patrolling is done effectively round the clock to deter further attempts of poaching.

WWF suggested that the intelligence gathering mechanism must be enhanced to secure prior information to halt poaching of rhinos.

WWF-India remains committed to conservation of rhinos through the Indian Rhino Vision 2020 program, and strongly urged the Assam State Forest Department and the Bodoland Territorial Council to take the above-mentioned steps to ensure zero poaching in the Manas National Park.

Hemanta Kumar Nath reports on local news in Assam, the north east Indian state. Read more stories by Hemanta Kumar Nath. Contact him through NewsBlaze.

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