Rhino horns fetch a premium in China and Southeast Asia where they are used in traditional medicine

Assam Forest Department arrested a most-wanted wildlife smuggler allegedly involved in multiple incidents of poaching and horn trade of the Indian Rhino in the famed Kaziranga National Park and Tiger Reserve (KNPTR).

The foresters had been chasing him for years, but only managed to ascertain his identity in 2019, officials told EastMojo.

Mukut Chandra Das, Divisional Forest Officer, Biswanath Wildlife Division of the KNPTR said Jobi Gadi was apprehended from Naharlagun on Wednesday night after a non-bailable warrant for his alleged involvement in an April 2019 case of rhino poaching in Eastern Range of the Biswanath Wildlife Division.

He has been remanded to five days in forest custody after being booked under various provisions of the country’s wildlife protection laws.

KNPTR in central Assam hosts the largest population of the Greater One-horned Rhinoceros, listed as vulnerable on the IUCN Red List.

“Gadi is involved in at least three cases of rhino poaching and trade,” said Raju Gogoi, investigating officer of the three cases.

The sleuths of the forest department had been trailing him with help of the Arunachal Police’s Special Investigations Team. They moved to arrest him after he was last located in Lakhimpur’s Harmuti, but officials confirmed that he was arrested from Naharlagun, Arunachal Pradesh.

“We were trailing him for two weeks after information that he was involved in sensitive cases including arms smuggling and poaching,” said Rohit Rajbir, Superintendent of Police, SIT.

A senior Kaziranga official told EastMojo that intelligence inputs suggested that Gadi allegedly provided arms to poachers active on the North Bank of the Brahmaputra and bought the rhino horn which was subsequently traded in the international market.

Arunachal Police sleuths say Gadi maintained that his income purely came from his fledgeling farms in West Siang district.

Kaziranga officials claim his involvement in cases of rhino poaching and horn trade could go back as far as 2011. But officials in Assam struggled to establish his identity, even as he continued to operate from the neighbouring state.

For many years, the forest department officials only knew his identity as some Gadi. Gogoi said in 2016 the officials tracked him as one Athou Gadi, the name that he mostly used in Assam.

It was only in 2019, that Gogoi was able to establish his identity as Jobi Gadi.

As the Covid-19 pandemic raged on, officials again lost track of him in 2020. Gadi moved from Itanagar to Naharlagun, selling his house and changing all his previous cell phone numbers which were then being watched.

It was only in January 2021 that Biswanath Wildlife Division officials managed to trace him and sought the help of the Arunachal Pradesh SIT.

Gadi is likely to be later brought to Eastern Assam Wildlife Division of KNPTR where he is wanted in another case of wildlife crime.

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