Gorkhatimes

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Bullets rain down on Kaziranga

Posted by Ramesh Khati on September 22, 2009

GUWAHATI(TOI): Bullets rained down on Kaziranga National Park on Sunday, barely hours after it suffered a triple blow a tiger was killed by vengeful villagers, a tusker’s trunk chopped off and a rhino shot by poachers.

Forest officials and poachers were engaged in a fierce gunbattle that lasted late into the night. However, the hunters escaped through the hilly terrain of adjoining Karbi Anglong district even after the forest guards fired several rounds to nab them.

The gang, comprising 4-5 sharpshooters from Nagaland, Manipur and Karbi Anglong, was the one that had killed the rhinos and chopped off its horn on Saturday evening. They were ambushed by armed forest officials about half an hour after the rhino was gunned down near Jamuguri Beel, a marshy wetland under the Burapahar forest range of Kaziranga.

The hail of bullets continued as the poachers started taking the route through Bagse Reserve Forest to Karbi Anglong. Till 10.50 pm, at least 55 rounds were fired by guards at a place called Rhinoland park, bordering Karbi Anglong. But the poachers dodged the bullets and fled. “Not only have we launched a search operation, we are also on the lookout for the linkman,” divisional forest officer D D Gogoi said.

Taking advantage of a brief spell of thunderstorm around 3 pm on Saturday, the hunters gunned down the rhino at 3.20 pm. A forest official admitted that the thunderstorm delayed their response to some extent. But the official ruled out locals’ involvement in the latest rhino poaching.

“Our intelligence sources said a seasoned poacher, now based in Karbi Anglong, provided all kinds of assistance to the gang for sneaking into the park. We dont want to disclose his name as we are formulating a strategy to nab him. One thing is for sure no local villagers connived with the poachers as guides,” the official said.

Kaziranga National Park, about 250 km from Guwahati, is also a World Heritage Site and houses two-thirds of the world’s one-horned rhino population.

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