Poachers living off an illegal wildlife market in nearby Nagaland have long been accused of turning Kaziranga National Park (KNP) into a rhino graveyard. Now, park insiders are turning out to be the animal’s enemies too.
The arrest of a poacher named Bhagirath Jamal last week has revealed that rhino horn hunters get help from forest guards for a fee. A ‘well-connected’ racket also helps the poachers offload the horn in Nagaland’s Dimapur town within 24 hours of killing a rhino.
Jamal, KNP officials said, told interrogators that a forest guard named Rahmat Ali helped his five-member team kill a rhino in the park’s Burapahar range on March 3. The horn was sold in Dimapur for Rs 10 lakh and Ali was paid Rs 1 lakh for his assistance. Park officials said there was no forest guard named Rahmat Ali but admitted the person in question could have been dealing with poachers under a pseudonym. KNP authorities have ordered a probe into the allegations without ruling out the possibility of an ‘inside job’.
The spotlight is back on Dimapur as the hub of illegal animal body parts trade. Dimapur figures prominently on the map of illegal wildlife trade prepared by UN Office on Drugs and Crime.