Assam opposition slams Gogoi over rhino poaching

Last Updated: Mon, Feb 04, 2013 12:40 hrs

Guwahati, Feb 4 (IANS) Poaching of rhinos in protected areas of Assam has reached an alarming proportion with suspected poachers continuing to kill them, an official said Monday.

While poachers killed a one-horned rhino in Kaziranga National Park last Saturday, forest officials Monday recovered another rhino carcass from Biswanath Chariali area in Sonitpur district.

"The rhino strayed out from Kaziranga National Park and poachers killed it. It was a male rhino and the horn was missing," park director N.K. Vasu told IANS.

According to official records, the state lost over 40 rhinos to poaching and floods in various protected areas last year.

Officials said that eight rhinos were killed by poachers this year in various protected areas of the state.

Vasu said that forest officials have been coordinating with officials at all territorial districts to prevent poaching.

About 900 forest officials, including personnel from the elite Assam Forest Protection Force, are on security duty in Kaziranga National Park.

Opposition parties like the Asom Gana Parishad (AGP) and the BJP have slammed Chief Minister Tarun Gogoi, who Sunday hinted at a "political conspiracy" behind the recent spate in rhino killings in Assam.

The opposition parties termed Gogoi's statement as an effort to cover up the failure of State Forest Minister Rockybul Hussain.

While state BJP president Sarbananda Sonowal asked Gogoi to name the political party involved in the rhino killings, AGP leader and former chief minister Prafulla Kumar Mahanta alleged that the chief minister had been protecting the forest minister by giving political colour to their failure to save rhinos.

Several students' groups - including the All Assam Students' Union (AASU) - blocked the national highway outside Kaziranga National Park Monday and burnt Hussain's effigy to protest the rhino killings.

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