In the most successful operation ever against poachers in the northeast, guards at the Kaziranga National Park (KNP) near Guwahati intercepted and killed four poachers on Friday morning.
Acting on a top-off, forest guards surrounded a section of the forest known for rhino movements, KNP warden Dibyadhar Gogoi said.
“Seeing our men, the poachers opened fire and tried to flee. Our guards returned fire, killing four poachers. Two members of the gang, however, escaped taking advantage of the thick forest,” said Gogoi.
A .303 rifle, raincoats and two daggers were recovered from the slain poachers. KNP officials suspect that the two who escaped might have taken away the weapons belonging to their dead comrades. The poachers were believed to be after rhino horns.
KNP, a UNESCO World Heritage Site, is home to the highly endangered Asian one-horned rhino and also has a large number of Royal Bengal tigers and elephants.
Rhino poaching has increased in the recent past. In 2008, poachers killed 18 rhinos and took away their horns, which command a massive price in the international — particularly south east Asian — black markets. Last year, the park lost 14 rhinos to poacher’s bullets. And so far this year, they have felled nine rhinos.
On Thursday evening, Assam Forest and Environment Minister Rockybul Hussain had asked the forest officials to be tough on poachers and encroachers.
Handing over 25 revolvers to forest officials of 13 wildlife divisions, the minister had said: “We want to send a clear message to poachers and encroachers that if they don’t stop their activities, the forest department will be extremely harsh on them.”