Following the surge in rhino poaching in Assam, India, the authorities have made a break-through with the arrest of a man who has admitted killing 6 one-horned rhino. Unfortunately the Chinese buyer had fled before he could be arrested.
In recent weeks rhino poachers in Assam have been taking advantage of the floods to target rhinos as they headed to higher ground. A public outcry followed with street demonstrations and calls for the Forest minister to be sacked.
Evidence seemed to suggest that local militants were to blame for the poaching and a series of police and army operations began against 2 militant groups in Naga and Karbi with over 20 arrests so far.
Yesterday there was a breakthrough with the arrest of one militant, Lindok Rongpi, who belonged to the Kuki National Liberation Front (KNLF). On his arrest he admitted to being responsible for killing 6 rhino close to the Kaziranga National Park. His confession was to a local magistrate and he told the officer that he was working under the orders of the JNLF leader called Songja Timung.
Songja Timung is currently being questioned by the local police but he has not yet been arrested or charged.
Other information given to the police by Rongpi led them to Dinapor in Nagaland – a known hotpsot for rhino trading – in the search for the rhino horn buyer, a Chinese citizen named Ho-Chin. Ho-Chin though had fled the area before authorities could capture him.
Police started to target militants as being involved in the poaching of local rhino after the bodies were examined. Professional poachers and hunters tend to use .303 rifles to kill the animals. Those poached near the Kaziranga National Park had been sprayed with automatic fire, probably from an AK-57.
The Kaziranga National Park is particularly sensitive to rhino poaching as it is so close to international borders which makes it easy and quick to get the horn out of the state. It currently has about 2,000 one-horned rhino. As security is heightened in African countries with rhino the poachers are turning their attention to India and its rhino population.
Trading in the rhino horn is an easy way for militant and terrorist group to raise money to buy weapons and militant groups in Assam have had devastating impacts on rhino populations in the past.
Manas Wildlife Park – a World Heritage Site – lost all its one-horned rhinos due to poaching by the Bonos militancy between 1989 – 1992. A re-introduction programme started between 2007 and 2010 saw 7 one-horned indian rhino’s transferred from the Pobitora wildlife sanctuary in an effort to re-establish the species in the park.
In the 1980’s the Laukhowa sanctuary had all it’s rhinos killed by the United Liberation Front of Asom (ULFA).