The Bharatiya Janata Party-led government in Assam appears to have given up on ending rhino-poaching.
On Monday, state forest minister Pramila Rani Brahma said it would not be possible to stop poaching.
Brahma represents Bodoland People’s Front, one of the two regional allies of BJP that used rhino poaching as a major issue to dislodge Tarun Gogoi’s Congress government.
“It is impossible end poaching completely because their network is very big,” Brahma said after two rhinos were killed in Kaziranga National Park within a fortnight.
“But our fight against the poachers will continue.”
Poachers have killed and sawed off the horn of nine rhinos this year. One of them was killed on June 7 when the minister had visited the park along with the police chiefs of four districts straddling Kaziranga.
Brahma also said many of the frontline guards in wildlife preserves were not physically fit enough to combat poachers. “We have plans to replace them with fitter people besides ensuring there is sufficient manpower to protect the parks,” she said.
The minister had earlier said a possible nexus between poachers and forest officers needed to be investigated. This followed the arrest of Mahat Chandra Talukdar, a divisional forest officer, for illegally amassing wealth from forest produce.
Police had seized Rs 2.71-crore cash, tiger and deer skin and ivory from Talukdar’s residence. The arrested DFO disclosed he knew some poachers during his tenure in Kaziranga National Park from 1989-1993 during which 184 rhinos were killed.
“Poaching will not be possible without the connivance of senior forest officials,” Soumyadeep Dutta, who heads a wildlife NGO, said.
A rhino horn, valued as an aphrodisiac despite being hardened hair, fetches up to Rs 1 crore in the international grey market, particularly in China and Southeast Asia.