The one-horned rhino or Indian rhino (Rhinoceros unicornis) is a vulnerable species and an estimate of population in 2009 put their numbers at about 3,000 left in the wild. The Kaziranga National Park in India was estimated to have just over 2,000 of those with the remaining spread thinly over the rest of India and Nepal.
Sadly there has been a surge in rhino poaching in Kaziranga with 7 killed so far this year of which 4 were killed in the last week. The latest poaching incident was the loss of a male rhino at Sundari Camp in Burapaha which happened earlier today (Saturday 6.00am local time).
The poachers failed to get away with the horn as they were interrupted by a patrol of forest guards and after a heavy gunfight the 5 poachers managed to escape into the forest leaving the bullet riddled body of the rhino.
On Januiary 29th two rhinos were lost in the Kaziranga National Park in 2 separate incidents. One was near the Hatibandi Camp under Bagori range and in the second the rhino poachers killed an animal near Borholla camp at Burapahar.
In an even more worrying incident a rhino was killed on January 30th and dehorned despite being tracked by a team of forest guards at the time. The rhino had left the safety of the Kaziranga National Park and was spotted later in a village in Lahor Chapori. The rhino was spotted after a massive search involving rangers on foot, in vehicles and using boats.
A team of forest rangers were sent to escort the rhino back to the national park and to protect it from poachers. When the rhino was first spotted it appeared to have injuries to the head but they were not considered to be serious as the rhino was moving quickly and easily. It was thought the injuries could have been caused by thorns or other vegetation.
Despite the manpower committed to escorting the rhino back to the park – involving 4 teams and a total of 28 forest rangers – the rhino still fell victim to poachers.
There are claims that forest rangers in the Kaziranga National Park are ill equipped to dealt with the poachers who often have better arms and equipment that the forest rangers. If 28 rangers can not offer protection to one rhino then there has to be a question over the effectiveness of either training or equipment.
The start to the year is not a good one for the rhinos of Assam state where the Kaziranga National Park – a World Heritage Site – is located. In 2012 a total of 21 rhinos were killed. In a little over 4 weeks of 2013 there have been 7 killed.