By Rhishja Cota-Larson
At least 26 greater one-horned rhinos have already been massacred for their horns in the Indian state of Assam during the first five months of 2013.
The tally now exceeds 2012′s total of 21 rhinos gunned down in Assam. And there is yet another threat to the vulnerable pachyderms: The annual monsoon season, which begins in June and ends in September. Last year, at least 28 rhinos drowned. Rising floodwaters also force the rhinos out into the open as they seek higher ground, which makes them even easier targets for rhino-killing gangs. However, it is hoped that deployment of camera-equipped unmanned aerial vehicles (UAV) will help monitor Kaziranga during the flooding.
As of March 30, 17 rhinos had reportedly been killed in Assam since the beginning of the year. Most recently, a male rhino was found dead with his horn missing on May 30 in Kaziranga National Park, near Kanchanjuri in the Bagori range of the park. Forest officials found “several empty cartridges of AK-47 and .303 rifles” near the rhino’s body. A female rhino had been gunned down just a week earlier near Dhanbari in the Agratoli range, where NDTV reported that three spent AK-47 cartridges were found.
A rifle was recovered on May 21 in Kaziranga National Park, thanks to a tip-off which prompted a joint operation by the Forest Battalion Force, India Reserve Battalion (IRB) and Assam Police. The illegal firearm was found “wrapped in a gunny bag and hung on a tree near Lal Dapu area”, according to the Times of India. The rifle recovery followed the arrest of two members of a rhino killing gang over the May 18 weekend. The suspects were identified by the Business Standard as Naren Doley and Bimal Pegu. A .303 rifle was deized from the duo. More....