Guwahati (AFP) India, April 24, 2007
Forest rangers shot dead two poachers in a world-famed rhino park in northeast India on Tuesday, a day after authorities warned that hunters of the endangered beasts would be killed, officials said.
"The encounter took place... before the poachers were able to do any damage to the wildlife" in the 430-square-kilometre (166-square-mile) Kaziranga National Park, Assam's chief wildlife warden M.C. Malakar told AFP.
"A silencer-fitted rifle was recovered from the two dead poachers," he said.
Kaziranga, named a world heritage site by UNESCO in 1985, lies some 220 kilometres (158 miles) east of Assam's largest city of Guwahati.
The killing of the two men came a day after Assam authorities announced a massive anti-poaching drive to protect the one-horned rhino that included deployment of an extra 50 rangers and 30 armed guards in Kaziranga.
The new measures were put in place after six rhinos had been found dead since January in the park, home to about 1,855 rhinos of the world's estimated 2,700 one-horned Indian rhinos.
"All our rangers are on maximum alert with the round-the-clock vigil intensified all along the park and its periphery," the warden said.
Experts believe that the rhino's horns, which are purported to have aphrodisiac properties, are smuggled to China or sold in other Asian markets.
Buyers from the Middle East also use the horns to make ornamental dagger handles. Estimates suggest the horns can sell for up to 35,000 dollars a kilogram (2.2 pounds).
Five rhinos were poached last year and seven were killed in 2005.
About 500 rhinos have been killed by poachers over the past 20 years, according to government estimates.
India's western state of Gujarat is also battling poachers.
It stepped up security in its Gir forest reserves last week following the mysterious deaths of around a dozen rare Asiatic lions.
earlier related report
The night time footage from Borneo island in Malaysia showed a Sumatran rhino eating, peering through jungle foliage, before it walked up to the camera and sniffed the equipment.
Malaysian officials and the WWF hailed the two-minute clip from a video camera mounted in a forest as a rare look into the rhino's life.
"These are very shy animals that are almost never seen by people and so this video gives us an amazing opportunity to spy on the rhino's behaviour," said Mahedi Andau, director the wildlife department in eastern Sabah state on Borneo island.
The Sumatran rhinoceros is one of the world's most critically-endangered species, with only small numbers left on Indonesia's Sumatra island, Sabah and peninsular Malaysia, according to the WWF.
The rhino shot in the two-minute footage is a Bornean subspecies and scientists estimate there are only between 25 and 50 left on the island, mostly believed to be found in Sabah's dense interior forests, it said.
Raymond Alfred, project manager for WWF-Malaysia's Asian Rhino and Elephant Action Strategy, said the footage and other photo stills would be used to determine the animals' condition.
"This is one of the greatest efforts for our project because now we can see what kind of habitat or what kind of forest condition the rhino lives in," Alfred told AFP.
The rhino was found in a commercial forest where human activity such as logging is commonplace but the footage will be used to convince the Sabah government to turn the area into a rhino conservation zone.
"These rhinos could face extinction in the next 10 years if their habitat continues to be disturbed and enforcement is not in place," Alfred said.
The shy creature's population has suffered from poaching and illegal encroachment into its habitat. The rhinos are so isolated that they rarely meet to breed.
The Sabah forestry department said in the statement it was trying to acquire a 200-hectare (500-acre) forest corridor to be secured as a rhino habitat.
It also said it was enhancing security in its part of the "Heart of Borneo" where the rhino was found, a 240,000 square kilometre (96,000-square mile) area of rainforest across the Malaysian, Brunei and Indonesian parts of the island.
Source: Agence France-Presse
Email This ArticleSea Snails Break The Law
Washington DC (SPX) Apr 25, 2007
Lizards gave rise to legless snakes. Cave fishes don't have eyeballs. In evolution, complicated structures often get lost. Dollo's Law states that complicated structures can't be re-evolved because the genes that code for them were lost or have mutated. A group of sea snails breaks Dollo's law, Rachel Collin, Staff Scientist at the Smithsonian Tropical Research Institute and colleagues from two Chilean universities announce in the April, 2007, Biological Bulletin.
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