Sonitpur, Assam: A rhinoceros was shot dead by poachers at a national park in Assam’s Sonitpur district early this morning. A forest guard was also killed in firing. The poachers, more than four in number, also sawed off the rhino’s horn. Assam is home to the world’s largest population of one-horned rhinos, an endangered species.
The incident took place at 2.45 am at the Rajiv Gandhi National Park in Orang, just 100 metres from a watch tower on the fringes of the park. The poachers fired at the rhino, a female, as it strayed close to the boundary of the park, using a .303 rifle and a pistol. Reacting to the shots, the guards at the watch tower fired at the poachers. In the crossfire, 28-year-old Sushil Seal, a member of the Assam Home Guard, was killed. He had worked at the Rajiv Gandhi National Park for the last four years and lived with his family four kilometres from the park.
A Mk 1 .303 rifle, one pistol and cartridges have also been recovered from the spot.
Poachers have killed and de-horned nearly 200 rhinos in Assam over the past 13 years; this year, 20 rhinos were killed. A few years ago, the Assam government set up a special task force to guard rhinos. Last year, there was a proposal to use drones for surveillance at the Kaziranga National Park, but nothing came of it.