Situated in northeastern India’s Assam state, the Kaziranga National Park is home to the world’s biggest population of one-horned rhinos.
Since the lockdown was implemented, these animals have been wandering towards the boundaries due to the decline in vehicles and lack of human activity in the area.
Poachers have since taken advantage of the rhinos’ movements near the boundaries, reports the Indian Express.
According to the park’s director, P. Sivakumar, a rhino carcass with a missing horn was discovered near a body of water inside the park. Eight rounds of empty cartridges from an AK-47 automatic rifle were reportedly found on-site.
“It is suspected that the rhino was killed at least two to three days ago,” Sivakumar was quoted saying.
One rhino horn can reportedly fetch as much as $150,000 or around $60,000 per kilo on the black market, the Daily Mail reported.
While rhino populations have been historically decimated by trophy hunting during the European colonial era, the remaining threat to the surviving rhinos is from the illegal rhino horn trade between Africa and Asia.
Today, buyers in Vietnam and China consist of the largest and second-largest black market destinations for rhino horn products respectively.
There have been over five attempts to kill rhinos last month, all of which were stopped by park rangers and a special rhino protection force set up by the authorities.
Created in 1908, the 330-square-mile park is also home to tigers, elephants and panthers.
To combat rhino poaching and to prevent illegal wildlife trade, “82 constables — 74 men and eight women— of the first-ever batch of a ‘Special Rhino Protection Force’ (SRPF) were deployed in various parts of UNESCO World Heritage Site” since July 1, 2019.
As the poaching attempts increased, some were foiled, but in this case, it was suspected to be “a well-organized crime.”
Feature Image via Kaziranga National Park