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Save our rhinos from extinction

Despite the measures taken in the last few years to end the menace of rhinoceros poaching in Assam, it continues with devastating effect. In Kaziranga Park in Assam, where 2,329 of the one-horned Indian rhinoceros are sheltered, 22 of the prized animals were lost to poachers in 2012. Another 17 have lost their lives and horns to poachers in Assam since the beginning of this year, with 10 in Kaziranga. The poachers are indiscriminate, killing whichever rhinos they find first, including calves. They take the animal’s horn, and occasionally the nails and tail.  A higher demand for the horn and a resultant price rise has made the one-horned rhino more vulnerable than before. Although there is no scientific proof of its medicinal value, rhino horn is highly prized in traditional Asian medicine, particularly in China and Far Eastern countries, where it is ground into a fine powder or manufactured into tablets as a treatment for a variety of illnesses such as nosebleeds, strokes, convulsions, and fevers. This demand has created highly profitable and organised international poaching criminal syndicates who deploy advanced technologies to carry out their heinous missions.

The Indian rhino is now under serious threat from poachers, who have intensified their search of rhinos for their horns since 2007, driven by growing market demands. Continued poaching could see Indian rhinos slide over the brink, into extinction.  As it is, rhinos are losing their habitats across the globe because of climate change and human encroachment, which makes the Kaziranga park an important sanctuary. It holds more rhinos than any other park or sanctuary in Asia with up to 71 per cent of the world’s rhinoceroses living in it. Destruction of their habitat over the years and poaching has brought the rhinos to the brink of extinction. These animals are among the world’s most endangered species. The great one-horned rhino could once be found from Pakistan all the way through India, Nepal, Bangladesh, Bhutan and Myanmar. By the turn of the century, this species had vanished from much of its range, and today only about 2,500 survive in India and Nepal. Throughout their range, their habitat continues to dwindle fast due to conversion of grassland habitats into agricultural fields and other human pressures. With the threat of poaching ever-present, much more needs to be done to conserve this critically endangered animal than is being done now.
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