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FLORA AND FAUNA
Poachers target rhinos in flood-hit NE India
by Staff Writers
Guwahati, India (AFP) Sept 26, 2012


Suspected poachers Wednesday killed a one-horned rhino in a flood-hit wildlife park, taking to 14 the number of the beasts slaughtered this year in the remote Indian region, officials said.

A wildlife official said poachers also shot and wounded a second one-horned rhino in Assam's Kaziranga National Park, 220 kilometres (136 miles) from Guwahati, the northeastern state's largest city.

"It is sad that poachers hacked off the horn and a portion of the right ear of the rhino that is still alive and battling for life," park warden Dibyadhar Gogoi told journalists.

The carcass of a second rhino was found floating in the floodwaters with its horn sheared off, others said.

"Poachers seem to have taken away the horn," an official who did not want to be named said.

Raging floodwaters have submerged the 430-square-kilometre park in eastern Assam, home to the world's largest concentration of one-horned rhinos.

A 2012 census in the park put the number of the creatures at 2,290, of a global population of 3,300.

The species declined to near extinction in the early 1990s and is currently listed as "vulnerable" by the International Union for Conservation of Nature.

Kaziranga has fought a sustained battle against rhino poachers who kill the animals for their horns, which fetch huge prices in some Asian countries where they are deemed to have aphrodisiac qualities.

Floods have also swamped 19 of Assam's 27 districts, including 2,600 villages, according to official figures. Some 400,000 hectares (988,400 acres) of crops were affected and 55 breaches of river banks had been recorded.

Some two million people have also been displaced by the current floods in Assam.

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