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Rhino found dead in north Bengal’s Gorumara National Park

The population estimate of one-horned rhino at Jalpapara was 204 in 2015 while the figure was 149 in 2011 and 35 at Gorumara in 2011. There are about 3,000 rhinos in the wild, half of them in Kaziranga, Assam alone.

india Updated: Dec 26, 2018 11:27 IST
Pramod Giri
Pramod Giri
Hindustan Times, Siliguri
The last time a rhino was killed in Gorumara, where an estimated 50 of the endangered animals live, was one year and nine months ago.
The last time a rhino was killed in Gorumara, where an estimated 50 of the endangered animals live, was one year and nine months ago.(AFP)
         

The carcass of an adult male rhinoceros was found with its horn missing at Gorumara National Park in West Bengal’s Jalpaiguri district, officials said on Wednesday, prompting the forest department to conduct an inquiry.

The last time a rhino was killed in Gorumara, where an estimated 50 of the endangered animals live, was one year and nine months ago.

“The carcass of the rhino was found on Tuesday in the Gorumara beat of the Park,” Nisha Goswami, divisional forest officer of Gorumara, said.

“It is believed the animal was killed within the last 48 hours. The horn of the rhino was missing. There was a bullet injury on the carcass and we suspect it was killed by either poisoning or by tranquillising,” Goswami said.

Binay Krishna Barman, the state forest minister, said, “We are yet to confirm the cause of death. It could be that the rhino died due to old-age or with some disease while its horn was taken away by people in the locality.”

However, the minister did not rule out that it could be a case of poaching.

More than 70 rhinos have been killed in north Bengal since 1951. The menace reached its peak between 1968 and 1972 when as many as 28 rhinos were killed. Three were killed in 2017.

On April 19, 2017, the decomposed carcass of a rhino was found in Gorumara National Park. The animal was killed almost one month ago, officers had said. The carcass of another male adult rhino was spotted in the same area the next day.

In February this year, six people including a sharpshooter from Arunachal Pradesh and a teacher were arrested after an adult rhino was killed and its horn chopped off in Jaldapara, about 74km away.

The Jaldapara National Park and Gorumara National Park are among the four forest tracts in India where the one-horned rhino is found in the wild. The other two are Assam’s Kaziranga and Manas national parks.

The population estimate of one-horned rhino at Jalpapara was 204 in 2015 while the figure was 149 in 2011 and 35 at Gorumara in 2011. There are about 3,000 rhinos in the wild, half of them in Kaziranga, Assam alone.

Rhino poaching in north Bengal forests, which are contiguous to Assam forests, is a big challenge as international rackets are active in the region.

Ujjawal Ghosh, the chief conservator of forest (wildlife), had earlier said international rackets of poachers from the northeast are active in north Bengal.

In May 2017, there was an exchange of gunfire between security personnel and poachers at the Dhupjhora area of the Gorumara forest. In 2014, three rhinos died at the hands of poachers in Jaldapara. In 2015, the number rose to five. In 2015, foresters even recovered an AK-56 rifle from Mendabari and arrested the shooter from Nagaland.

Conservationists and wildlife activists continue to blame the lack of forest staff as a reason behind poaching. According to Animesh Bose of the Himalayan Nature and Adventure Foundation, the forest department is suffering from a 36% shortage of employees.

However, the state forest minister refuted the allegation as he said more than 400 new recruits have been made on dire in harness while the posts of rangers have almost been fulfilled.

First Published: Dec 26, 2018 11:27 IST

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