Jorhat, Sept. 26: A female rhino was left bleeding by poachers who chopped off its horn and cut off a part of its right ear after shooting the animal, which had entered Karbi hills in Assam's Golaghat district last night to escape flood waters in Kaziranga National Park, in the wee hours today.
Efforts were on to save the rhino. Vets from the Veterinary Science College at Khanapara, Guwahati, have been summoned to tranquillise it. The incident occurred despite stepped up security in the park.
Amarendra Talukdar, Parku range officer under Karbi Anglong forest department, east division, said the animal was being constantly monitored after it entered the Rangagorah forest sub-beat area at Ruthe pahar but the guards could not keep up with it as it sped up the hill early this morning.
"The guards following the animal were about 3km away from it when they heard gunshots. They fired too but by the time they reached the female rhino, its horn had been removed, leaving a deep gash, and a portion of an ear had been lopped off," he added.
"Rangagorah has four sector camps and more personnel have been deployed in the area in view of the floods. But despite this, the incident took place and we could do nothing. It is pathetic to see the animal in such a condition," he said.
Talukdar said the poachers must have got information about the whereabouts of the animal from local residents and were lying in wait, otherwise they could not have conducted the operation so swiftly.
Anthony Thangcho, a veterinarian at the Centre for Wildlife Rescue and Conservation near Kaziranga, said they could not go near the "furious" animal to ascertain how many bullets had hit it.
"When we reached the spot, the animal was lying down. But as soon as a crowd gathered, it charged and almost injured one person. We are waiting for the vets to arrive from Guwahati and tranquillise it but this will most likely be done tomorrow as it would not be possible to operate in this area at night," he added.
The vet said the poachers probably managed to saw off the horn as the animal had slid a few metres down the slope after being shot and its horn had got entangled in a bamboo clump.
As the news spread, members of All Assam Students Union, Asom Jatiyatabadi Yuba Chatra Parishad and Kaziranga Surakshya Samiti and residents blocked National Highway 37, which passes through the park, and burnt the effigies of forest minister Rakibul Hussain and chief minister Tarun Gogoi.
The carcass of another rhino with its horn removed was found at Gotonga in Bagori range of the park today. While residents alleged this was another case of poaching, the ranger of Bagori, Kushal Deka, said the rhino had died earlier under natural circumstances and the horn may have been removed by forest guards as a safeguard against trading.
Assam chief wildlife warden Suresh Chand will visit Kaziranga tomorrow to hold a meeting with forest officials, deputy commissioners and police officials of the neighbouring districts.
The World Conservation Congress under the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN), which concluded at Jeju Island in Korea on September 15, had passed a resolution calling for more protection for rhinos. It noted that in India, this would require concerted action from the Centre and the state governments of Assam, West Bengal, Bihar and Uttar Pradesh.