GUWAHATI: On World Rhino Day on Wednesday, Assam set on fire a large stockpile of over 2,400 rhino horns, which were extracted from naturally or accidentally dead rhinos as well as those confiscated from arrested poachers and stored for over four decades in government treasuries, to stop the illegal trade in rhino horns.
Chief minister Himanta Biswa Sarma, who personally supervised the event at Bokakhat amid the chanting of Vedic rituals and blowing of conches, said they wanted to prove the common belief that rhino horns have miraculous medicinal properties is a myth. The horns, extracted by poachers after killing the animals, have a huge illegal market in several countries, especially Vietnam, where they are prized for their aphrodisiac qualities and command a high price.
Sarma said, “The horns have been destroyed to send a strong message against poaching and smuggling of rhino horns. We want to tell the world that the rhino alive with the horn on its head is precious to us and not a dead animal with its pride removed by poachers or those kept in government treasuries.”
Selling these horns would propagate the myth that rhino horns have medicinal values, which the state government wants to bust. As trade in human organs cannot be allowed, the state government is also committed towards not encouraging trade in wildlife animal parts,” the chief minister added.
Acting on a cabinet decision, 2,479 horns were consigned to the flame. About 94 horns will be showcased in a museum to be set up at the Kaziranga National Park, while 29 will be kept for court cases.
Sarma added that the government has taken a zero-tolerance policy towards poaching of wildlife. The one-horned rhinoceros population in Assam has increased from 1,672 in 1999 to 2,652 as per the 2018 census, which has contributed to the greater one-horned rhino moving up the conservation ladder from the ‘Endangered’ to the ‘Vulnerable’ tag under the IUCN Red List of threatened species.
Sarma said it is against the country’s law to sell or buy wildlife properties and resources and that is why these horns have been destroyed.
Asserting that the poachers will have to think twice before trying to kill wild animals in Assam, he said the state government will not allow any such activities and will take the strongest action against wildlife criminals. He informed that the elevated corridor over the highway passing through the Kaziranga National Park would be constructed soon for the protection of wild animals.
“The destruction of the horns in a state with 71% of the world’s population of the one-horned rhino will send a strong message to poachers that the horn has no medicinal value and it’s trade is completely illegal and based on myths. The horn is used in traditional Chinese medicine. Due to a persistent demand in some countries, there’s always a pressure of poaching,” said state principal chief conservator of forests (wildlife), Amit Sahai.
In Video: Assam govt burns nearly 2500 rhino horns to bust miraculous medicinal myth