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Poacher gang consisting of former forest guards busted

Guwahati, May 18 (Calcutta Tube) Wildlife rangers in Assam have arrested seven poachers, of whom two are former forest guards, close to the famed Kaziranga National Park, officials said Tuesday.

The poachers were arrested early Tuesday while they were in the process of selling a rhino horn to an international animal organ smuggling syndicate.

‘The surprise element is that two of the seven arrested were former forest guards at the Kaziranga National Park. One of them opted for voluntary retirement recently, while the other was sacked from service about three months ago for dereliction of duty,’ a park warden told IANS.

A rhino horn and cash amounting to Rs.345,000 were seized from the gang.

‘We are now investigating and trying to find out if there could be some unscrupulous forest guards working in tandem with poacher gangs in Kaziranga,’ the warden said.

The 430 sq km park is home to the world’s largest concentration of one-horned rhinos. As per the 2009 census report, some 2,048 of the world’s estimated 3,000 one-horned rhinos lumber around the swamps and grasslands of Kaziranga, their concentration here ironically making the giant mammals a favourite target of poachers.

Nine rhinos have been killed so far this year, while 18 were killed in 2008 and 14 in 2009.

Between 1980 and 1997, some 550 rhinos were killed by poachers in the wilds of Kaziranga, the highest being 48 in 1992.

Poachers kill rhinos for their horn, which many believe contains aphrodisiac qualities, besides being used in parts of Asia as medicine for curing fever, stomach ailments and other diseases.

Rhino horn is also much fancied by buyers from the Middle East who turn them into handles of ornamental daggers, while elephant ivory tusks are primarily used for making ornaments and decorative items.

A rhino horn sells for up to Rs.15 lakh (Rs.1.5 million) per kilogram in the international market after the horns are smuggled to clandestine Asian markets.

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