Poachers kill rhino as Pramila visits park

 Poachers struck at Kaziranga National Park again today, killing a rhino and taking away its horn at a time when the forest and environment minister, Pramila Rani Brahma, and two of her ministerial colleagues were holding discussions with local residents on possible ways and means to protect the state animal.

The ruling BJP alliance in the state had made rhino poaching a major issue in the recent Assembly elections, saying that the erstwhile Congress government had done little in this regard.

One of Pramila's ministerial colleagues accompanying her on the highly-publicised maiden visit to the national park today was Atul Bora, who is the agriculture minister and AGP MLA from Bokakhat, under which the area where the rhino was killed today falls.


Sources said guards at the Demow camp under Agaratoli range heard several rounds of gunshots around 5pm.

A search later revealed the carcass with its horn missing. This is the seventh rhino to fall prey to poachers this year at the national park.

Pramila, accompanied by water resources minister and Kaliabor MLA Keshab Mahanta, the BPF legislator from Gossaigaon, Majendra Narzary, officials and media representatives and arrived at Kohora around 3 in the afternoon, on an Assam State Transport Corporation bus.

After her arrival, the minister participated in an interaction with representatives of various organisations and local residents at the convention centre here. It was also attended by Dibrugarh MLA Prasanta Phukan, Nagaon MLA Rupak Sarma, Khumtai MLA Mrinal Saikia and Tingkhong MLA Bimal Bora.

The director of the national park, M. Ali, was also present.

Pramila had said earlier today that it was important to involve the local populace in conservation measures at Kaziranga National Park.

Tomorrow, the minister will undertake a house-to-house visit at villages on the periphery of the park where poaching of the one-horned rhino is a huge issue.

During the three-hour conversation with the public and the MLAs, the minister heard about all issues, starting from erosion of the national park's land by the Brahmaputra, encroachment by suspected Bangladeshi migrants, relaxation in the norms of the proposed eco-sensitive zone, modernisation of resources of the forest guards protecting the national park and so on.

The minister said "we need to take into confidence" the local youths and the residents of the adjoining areas to protect the park because nobody knows the park and its problems better than them.

A few days ago, chief minister Sarbananda Sonowal had directed the environment and forests department to set up a permanent office of the principal chief conservator of forests in Kaziranga to enhance the protection of the national park.

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