Preparations are underway at Bokakhat in Assam’s Golaghat district to destroy 2,479 rhino horns currently housed in state treasuries. The rhino horns will be burned publicly on September 22 on the occasion of World Rhino Day.
Assam cabinet on September 16 decided to bust the myth about rhino horns and resultant poaching by destroying the confiscated rhino horns. The cabinet had also decided to preserve 94 rhino horns as heritage pieces for academic purposes, while 50 rhino horns will be preserved for court cases.
Rhinos in Assam
Assam has the largest population of Greater One-horned Rhino (Rhinoceros unicornis) in the world. With about 2,600 individuals, they are found in Kaziranga, Manas and Orang National Parks, besides Pobitora Wildlife Sanctuary. They were earlier found in Laokhowa Wildlife Sanctuary and some other parts of the State from Goalpara in the west to Dibru-Saikhowa National Park in the east.
Essentially a mass of compacted hair, rhino horn is made up of Keratin, a protein which also makes up our hair and fingernails. It continues to grow during the lifetime of an individual. Horns collected after the death of rhinos or those that naturally drop off are kept in the custody of the Forest Department.
Myth behind Rhino Horns
Ground rhino horn is used in traditional Chinese medicine to ‘cure’ a range of ailments, from cancer to hangovers and also as an aphrodisiac. In Vietnam, possessing a rhino horn is considered a status symbol. Due to demand in these countries, poaching pressure on rhinos is ever persistent, against which one cannot let the guard down.
Rhino Horn Reconciliation and Destruction
The Wildlife Protection Act 1972, allows for destruction of Wildlife trophies (including Rhino horn) under Section 39 (3) (c) which states- “No person shall, without the previous permission in writing of the Chief Wildlife Warden or the authorised officer destroy or damage such Government property”
Through Govt. of Assam notification. No. FRM.29/2020/47 dtd. 29/07/2021; a committee was constituted under Chairmanship of the Chief Wildlife Warden, Assam for “Reconciling of the trophies, animal articles etc; derived from Scheduled animals and destruction of the same thereof”.
- Opening and cleaning the rhino horn
- Microscopy in case horn genuineness was doubtful
- Labelling with unique barcode identity (Horns implicated in court cases were not barcoded)
- Manual morphometry: Weight, Standing height, Anterior curvature, posterior curvature, basal circumference
- Photographic morphometry
- Sample for future genetic analysis obtained by drilling
- Final Weighment
- Packaging in cling film
- Placing in designated boxes for Destruction, Preservation and samples
Rhino conservation in Assam
The Government of Assam has successfully resisted poaching with tough measures and launched several conservation initiatives. The remarkable success of these initiatives has earned the Government accolades from across the world, and today the Greater One horned Rhino has moved up the conservation ladder from ‘Endangered’ to ‘Vulnerable’ tag under the IUCN Red List of Threatened Species.
From arming Forest personnel with sophisticated weapons to consolidating the land around Assam’s rhino-bearing areas, the Government has stepped up rhino conservation efforts through technological interventions such as Electronic Eye Surveillance, use of Drones, smart app-based patrolling, besides enhancing habitat management initiatives, infrastructure and instituting ration allowance at the rate of Rs. 2000 pm for forest personnel deployed in Protected Areas.
Adopting smart green infrastructure is the Government of Assam’s latest endeavour to ensure development and rhino conservation go hand in hand.
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