Assam has got permission to arm its forest guards with weapons like AK-47s to fight heavily-armed poachers, the State's Environment and Forest Minister Rockybul Hussain said on Thursday.
The minister's comments came as another rhino fell prey to greed at the sprawling Kaziranga National Park, about 200 km from Guwahati, Assam's key city.
"We have been allowed by the Centre to (arm forest guards) with sophisticated weapons like AK-47," Hussain told IANS in an interview while visiting the national capital.
The minister said the use of AK-47 in the latest killing of an one-horned rhino at Kaziranga was "very worrying".
He said Assam had sought the Central government's green signal to use "powerful weapons" as "poachers have started using AK-47". "Intelligence and Police Department have said that extremists are involved in this (poaching)," said Hussain.
The Kaziranga National Park is the world's last major refuge of one-horned rhinos, whose folds resemble a medieval knight's armour. According to one estimate, India is now home to about 2,300 rhinos, all of them in Assam.
The majestic animal faces constant threat from poachers due to the illegal demand for rhino horn in Oriental medicines as an aphrodisiac and fever cure.
According to one estimate, a processed kilogram of rhino horn can fetch as much as $30,000. More....