The zoo, it appears, is no longer an insurance against poaching for feral animals.
Guards at the Assam State Zoo in Guwahati caught a poacher from near the rhino enclosure early Sunday morning. The man had scaled the wall Saturday night with a .303 rifle, six-round bullets and an axe in a bid to kill as many rhinos as possible. The zoo has nine rhinos.
According to the zoo’s divisional forest officer Utpal Bora, the man identified himself as Chin Khansong, 55, from Churachandpur district of Manipur. “He confessed to having sneaked in yesterday (Saturday) night hoping the zoo would be empty today (Sunday) on the occasion of Magh Bihu,” Bora told HT.
“He has been handed over to the police."
Khansong said he had arrived from Manipur on January 13, checked into a hotel and planned his strike. He was planning to take the rhino horns out to be eventually smuggled to gray markets in Southeast Asia via Myanmar.
Despite being a mass of hair, a rhino horn is highly valued as an aphrodisiac in China and elsewhere in Southeast Asia. It is also sought after in Yemen, where it is turned into dagger hilts. A horn of an adult one-horned rhino fetches Rs 10-12 lakh in the international market.
On an average, Assam’s rhino habitats – Kaziranga National Park, Orang National Park and Pobitora Wildlife Sanctuary – witness a dozen cases of poching. Apart from locals, the poachers are from Nagaland and Manipur.