Forest guards at the Burapahar range of Kaziranga National Park last night foiled a poaching attempt of another rhino and managed to kill one of the poachers, who is yet to be identified.
The Burapahar range has faced the maximum number of poaching incidents this year with at least 12 out of the 28 rhinos killed in the park being killed in this range or in its vicinity.
Ranger Jinaram Bordoloi said acting on specific information, he had formed a special group of security personnel to take on the poachers.
“We heard that a group of poachers would make their way into the park from Karbi Anglong after crossing the Burapahar hills. A special squad was formed and we took position near Difloo Kukurakata which overlooks Shikari Dandi, a trail often used by hunters and poachers even in the bygone days, at 8pm,” he said. Soon after they heard a rustling sound and bullets flew past them.
“I don’t know if they were firing at us or at an animal. We could not see anything because of the darkness and fog. However, we retaliated after that and the gunfire on both sides continued for about 10-15 minutes before everything fell silent. When we came down from our vantage point, we found the dead poacher,” he said.
An axe and nine empty cartridges of AK-47 rifles were found from near the poacher. Eight empty cartridges of .303, .315 and self-loading rifles were also found. Bordoloi said the empty cartridges of SLRs, .303 and .315 rifles were most likely from their guns while the empty cartridges of AK-47s belonged to the poachers.
He could not say how many poachers were there in the group. The slain poacher, about 25 years of age, was clad in a vest and a pair of shorts.
There are about 1,200 personnel guarding the park, which include forest guards, boatmen and the newly created Assam Forest Protection Force. According to the rhino census carried out at the Kaziranga National Park in March, it was found that the number of one-horned rhinos in the park has increased to 2,329 compared to the figure of 2,290 according to last year’s census. According to official figures, the total rhino population in Assam stands at 2,544.
Kaziranga, a designated Unesco World Heritage Site, has an area of more than 800 square km, which includes a core area of 430 square km and new additions in the north bank of the Brahmaputra.
The four other ranges are Agaratoli, Kohora, Bagori and the Northern.