Assamese NRIs in the US who remain concerned over increasing incidents of rhino poaching in their native state are preparing a white paper on the one-horned rhinoceros.
"We think volumes have been written and spoken about the ineffectiveness of the present measures to protect the rhinos in Kaziranga National Park and other sites. Now it is time to act," Rajen Barua, chief office-bearer of the Friends of Assam & Seven Sisters (FASS) with its headquarters in Houston, Texas, told IANS.
He said the initiative would give an overall historical perspective on the animal and the present state of affairs on the sensitive issue of rhino poaching. It would also give recommendations with an aim to save the endangered creature.
The FASS has been consistently raising its voice for a credible and high-level inquiry into the killings of rhinos, and demanding disciplinary action against the officials and individuals responsible for the lack of protective action.
The organization, in a statement issued from Houston in March, had insisted that "since the Assam government had failed miserably in its duties, the administration of Kaziranga should immediately be placed under military rule for the time being with strict orders to treat the poachers as terrorists".
A citizen's vigilance committee was also advocated by them to monitor the situation on a regular basis in the national parks of the state.
Assam Chief Minister Tarun Gogoi has declared that his government favoured a federal inquiry into the reported killings of over 30 rhinos in different reserves of Assam since January 2007.
Civil society and advocacy groups in the region have raised their voices against the slaughtering of rhinos by poachers since the early part of 2008. But the authorities concerned and the state government preferred to overlook public resentment, believes FASS.
For more than three months, wildlife lovers have strongly condemned the authorities of Kaziranga, which has witnessed the loss of 26 rhinos to poachers since January 2007. Recognised as a safe haven for the rhinos, Kaziranga gives shelter to almost two-thirds of the total population of one-horned rhinos around the world.
A 1984 census showed that Kaziranga, which was declared a National Park in 1974, had 1,080 rhinos. Another census in 1991 showed that their number was around 1,069. The census in 1999 provided a more optimistic result, at 1,552. The last census in 2006 revealed that the number of rhinos was 1,855.
The rhino horn enjoys great demand in the international market, as it is believed to contain aphrodisiac qualities. The horns are also believed to have medicinal value. Traditional Chinese medicine demands rhino horns, which is believed to cure fever and stomach ailments fast.
China, Taiwan, Thailand, South Korea and the Middle East are known to be huge markets for illegal trading of rhino horns. The horn fetches a few thousand US dollars per kilogram in the international market.
In India, poaching is an offence punishable with up to seven years' imprisonment. India has been a member to the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species since 1976 and hence, in principle at least, is bound by all its efforts to eliminate international trade in wildlife and wildlife parts, he added.