Assam observes World Rhino Day disposing of 2479 horns
Guwahati: Assam observed World Rhino Day on 22 September with a difference. The BJP led State government in Dispur destroyed 2479 horns to bust the myth relating to the organs about having special medicinal value. Following the State cabinet meeting deciding to burn the horns as a strong message to poachers and smugglers, the unusual show was organized at Bokakhat near Kaziranga national park and tiger reserve in eastern Assam.
State chief minister Himanta Biswa Sarma, who was present on the occasion starting with Vaidik rituals with a number of priests chanting Mantras, took the lead to dispose of the consignment, selected out of total 2623 rhino horns extracted from naturally or accidentally dead animals and also confiscated from poachers, which were stored in government treasuries since 1980.
“We have decided to preserve 94 rhino horns, based on size and soundness of architecture which would be showcased in a museum to be set up at Kaziranga forest reserve, whereas 29 horns is kept for ongoing cases in various courts,” said CM Sarma in presence of State environment and forest minister Parimal Suklabaidya, minister and local legislator Atul Bora with other dignitaries.
Officially known as the greater one-horned rhinoceros and found primarily in India and Nepal, the animals are listed as vulnerable on the IUCN red list. Assam alone gives shelter to over 2650 rhinos in its forest reserves. Kaziranga is widely known for its over 2,400 rhinos along with other precious wildlife. The people of Assam are also obsessed with the rhino as their pride and continue raising voices for the animal’s conservation.
International Rhino Foundation said in a statement that rhinos have walked the Earth for more than 50 million years and once roamed throughout Asia and Africa. At the beginning of the 20th century, the global rhino population was around 500,000 and now after 120 years, 28,000 rhinos (including the two-horn ones) are surviving. Deforestation and land clearance for human settlements have already wiped out rhino populations in Myanmar, Bangladesh, Bhutan, Pakistan, Thailand, Cambodia, Laos, Vietnam, etc.
“Throughout Africa and Asia, we are replanting forests, removing invasive species, restoring degraded farmland and turning it into suitable habitat, and moving rhinos back into areas where they previously roamed (under intensive monitoring and protection of course),” stated the Texas based global organization, adding it has been rebuilding forests and grasslands that serve as critical carbon sinks and also providing environmentally-sustainable job opportunities for local people.
Assam government has taken zero tolerance policy towards the poaching of wildlife, stated Sarma and claimed that due to the consistent efforts, one-horned rhino population in Assam has increased from 1672 in 1999 to 2652 (as per the 2018 census). With first-of-its-kind event of destruction of rhino horns on such a large scale, he intends to send a strong message against the rhino poaching.
Referring to suggestions from some quarters that the accumulated stockpile of rhino horns could have been sold to earn revenue by the government, Sarma commented that it is against the country’s law to sale or buy wildlife properties and resources and that is why these horns have been destroyed. Selling these horns would propagate the very myth of rhino horns containing medicinal values which the government wants to bust, asserted Sarma.
Claiming that the poachers will have to think twice before trying to kill wild animals in Assam, he assured that such activities would not be tolerated. Sarma also informed that the elevated corridor over the highway passing through Kaziranga would be constructed soon for protection of wild animals. He also informed that the world famous forest reserve will be opened for the tourists from next month as the authority is working towards unlocking of corona restrictions.