Guwahati: One more rhino was found dead at Manas National Park in western Assam on Friday. With this, the number of rhinos killed at Manas went up to eight in three years since it regained the Unesco World Heritage Site status in 2010.
The Indian side of Manas is a contigious landscape in Bhutan where it is known as Royal Manas National Park.
Park officials found the decomposed carcass of a male rhino with bullet injuries and horn missing in the Daojeng area, about 7 km from the Bhuyapara forest range office. "The rhino might have been killed about three days ago. Our staff stumbled upon the carcass during routine patrolling," said Manas field director A C Das.
The latest poaching took place barely a week after suspected National Democratic Front of Boroland (Songbijit) militants snatched seven rifles from the Army's Eco Task Force (ETF) personnel from neighbouring Kokrajhar district. Officials suspect that the weapons might have been used in the killing. "We do not rule out the possibility, but we have to investigate it," said an official.
Conservationists feared that frequent rhino poaching cases in Manas, which got its world heritage status in 2011, might take away its recognition.
"There is every possibility of Manas relapsing to the danger list if this security threat continues. If Manas is again put on the danger list, it will be a shame on us. It is sad that Manas continues to suffer from neglect in terms of infrastructure and manpower.
The state and the Centre should seriously look into the issue," Soumyadeep Datta, director of Nature's Beckon.
The 38th session of Unesco's World Heritage Committee (WHC) in Doha this year had already expressed concern over the poaching of rhinos in Manas.
It had also warned that deterioration of security and surge in poaching could create the conditions to "re-inscribe the property" (Manas) on the List of World Heritage in Danger."