Rhino poachings rise, conservation efforts yield little
Whereas 55 rhinos were killed between 2009 and 2012, this year (till 15 September), 30 have already been killed. Majority of the poaching incidents have occurred in Kaziranga Wildlife Sanctuary in Assam.
In addition to the fact that the poaching of this Schedule-I animal continues to be at an all-time high, it now faces an unprecedented threat from organised crime gangs employing sophisticated weaponry for poaching.
In a dangerous trend, according to wildlife conservationists, the poachers are now using AK-47 assault rifles, which bring the animal down in one shot, instead of the earlier weapons like 303 rifles, which were slow loading weapons. Now, the poachers enter the protected areas, shoot the rhinos down, swiftly cut their horns and escape, whereas earlier, when the weapons were relatively slower, chances of their being apprehended by the forest guards are higher, sources say.
Till about two years back, most of the poaching was carried out by the small time traders, villagers and tribals for their petty gains, but now, bigger gangs have entered the fray.
Majority of the poaching incidents have reportedly occurred inside the Kaziranga Wildlife Sanctuary in Assam. The proximity of Assam to India’s porous international borders with countries like Bangladesh and Myanmar not only helps in the availability of such lethal weapons but also enables poaching gangs to gain access to the illegal wildlife trade syndicates across these borders.
Dipankar Ghose, director (species and landscapes), WWF-India, says, ‘Poachers are desperate to kill rhinos because of an increasing demand in international trade. Most of the rhino horns are being smuggled into East and South East Asia, particularly Vietnam and China, where they are perceived to be traditional cancer-curing medicines. This notion is, however, baseless, as horns are only fused hairs, which scientifically, have no use.’
‘There is also a lack of coordination between the state forest department and police, which struggle amongst themselves for funds and jurisdictions. Also, we are yet to see a strong commitment from the central government as nothing has come up so far. A task force for rhino conservation is the need of the hour,’ Ghose adds.