In the northeast Indian state of Assam the newly elected government this month announced plans to crack down on poaching of one-horned rhinos in the area.
Kaziranga National Park in Assam is home to the world’s largest population of rare and endangered one-horned rhinos. More than 2,200 of these creatures live in the park, along with other species of rhino, elephants, deer and a plethora of other wildlife. This wealth of biodiversity makes Kaziranga a popular spot for wildlife safaris in India. Over the past several years rhino poaching deaths have decreased overall, but eight rhinos have already been killed in 2016, which spurred the government to take stronger action against poachers.
Now local police will assist with stopping poachers and protecting rhinos, according to Pramila Rani Brahma, Assam’s new environment minister. Park rangers and Kaziranga National Park staff performed these tasks alone in the past. The police and the government are also looking into allegations that park staff members have been involved in trafficking rhino horns.
Poachers have recently killed rhinos at times when the park received local or national attention. In June, poachers killed a rhino while Brahma and other officials were visiting to discuss how to handle the threat of poaching.
In April, poachers killed a rhino just a few hours after Kaziranga received a visit from Prince William and his wife the Duchess of Cambridge. The royal couple had visited the park to bring attention to the importance of protecting endangered species from poachers and wildlife trafficking.
The one-horned rhino is one of five rhino species in the world. All species of rhinos are endangered and live under constant threat from poachers who kill them to sell their horns. Rhino horns are in high demand in countries such as Vietnam and China where people have the mistaken idea that consuming rhino horn will increase male virility.
Even with the threat of poachers in the park, Kaziranga is succeeding in preserving the majority of the rhinos that call it home. The number of rhinos in the park has increased from just 75 in 1905 to 366 in 1966 and an estimated 2,401 in 2015.
This post includes information from the Associated Press article “India’s Assam state makes new plans to halt rhino poaching.”