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Rare rhino horns go up in flames in India anti-poaching campaign
The first ceremony of its kind was held in northeastern India as part of an anti-poaching drive to mark World Rhino Day.
Seized rhino horns burn on a furnace near the Kaziranga National Park in Bokakhat. [Biju Boro/AFP]
23 Sep 2021
Nearly 2,500 rare rhino horns have been destroyed in the first ceremony of its kind in northeastern India as part of an anti-poaching drive to mark World Rhino Day on Wednesday.
The endangered one-horned rhinoceros used to be widespread in the region but hunting and habitat loss have slashed its numbers to just a few thousand, with most now found in India’s Assam state.
Trade in rhino horn has been banned since 1977 by the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora.
But conservationists warn poaching attempts continue amid demand from China and Vietnam, where rhino horn is promoted as a wonder ingredient in traditional medicine.
“A rhino horn has supreme value only when it is intact to the living rhino. These horns have no value,” Assam’s Chief Minister Himanta Biswa Sarma said during the ceremony in the town of Bokakhat on Wednesday.
“With today’s action, Assam wants to send two messages – that we don’t believe that rhino horns have any medicinal value and that we only believe in preserving the living rhinos.”
The town is near the UNESCO-listed heritage site Kaziranga National Park, home to more than 2,000 one-horned rhinos – the world’s biggest population.
At the ceremony, horns were carefully placed in layers in several large furnaces before being set alight, sending plumes of smoke into the air above fierce orange flames.
The animal parts, which contain keratin, the same protein as in human hair and nails, had been kept in storage by the government since 1969.
Some of the horns had been seized from poachers. Others were removed from rhinos that had died of natural causes.
All rhino deaths in the state are recorded by local police.
Before the ceremony, officials extracted DNA from each horn and gave each animal part a unique ID number to create a gene database for scientific studies and conservation efforts.
Assam’s Forest and Environment Minister Parimal Suklabaidya added that 94 horns were also set aside and would be kept for heritage purposes.
The International Rhino Foundation said on Monday in its annual report that two of the herbivores were killed by poachers in Assam in 2020.
But the global body added that rhino poaching deaths have been declining in recent years amid conservation efforts in India and neighbouring Nepal.
The population of the one-horned creatures had grown to more than 3,700 after plunging to just 100 in the early 1900s, it added.
Nearly 2,500 rare rhino horns were destroyed on Wednesday as part of an anti-poaching drive. [Biju Boro/AFP]
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Officials of Assam forest department arrange seized rhino horns before burning them. [Biju Boro/AFP]
Trade in rhino horn has been banned since 1977 by the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora. [Biju Boro/AFP]
Conservationists warn poaching continues amid demand from China and Vietnam, were rhino horn is promoted as a wonder ingredient in traditional medicine. [Biju Boro/AFP]
A forest official places seized rhino horns on a furnace. The endangered one-horned rhinoceros used to be widespread in the region but hunting and habitat loss have slashed its numbers to just a few thousand, with most now found in India's Assam state. [Biju Boro/AFP]
Some of the horns had been seized from poachers. Others were removed from rhinos that had died of natural causes. [Biju Boro/AFP]
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The population of the one-horned creatures had grown to more than 3,700 after plunging to just 100 in the early 1900s. [Biju Boro/AFP]
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