The recent killing of two rhinos at Gorumara National Park in north Bengal has raised questions over security and vigilance there, prompting authorities including state Forest Minister Binoy Kumar to form a committee to probe potential lapses on the part of forest officials.
Two one-horned rhinoceroses were retrieved from the park on Friday. According to reports, poachers had killed the rhinos several weeks ago, and had hidden the bodies inside the park. Forest officials reportedly only came to know about the poaching after rhino horns were recovered from a group of smugglers in Assam.
“We have recovered rhino horns and arrested five persons. I spoke to Principal Chief Conservator of Forest, Wildlife Pradeep Vyas and asked him to conduct an inquiry and fix responsibility,” said Burman.
Sources said five poachers got into a car crash near Guwahati in Assam on March 14. Four of them died in the crash while the fifth survived, and was rushed to a hospital. From the crash site, officials recovered a rhino horn, some narcotics and a map of Gorumara sanctuary. When interrogated, the survivor revealed that the two rhinos had been poached at Gorumara, and revealed the names of four others involved in the case, bringing the total number of arrests to five.
Both Vyas and Additional Principal Chief Conservator of Forests, R P Saini, have rushed to Gorumara to investigate the matter. When exhumed, the rhino carcasses were revealed to have bullet injuries.
Burman said organised gangs operating in Assam and the north-eastern part of the country are now trying to target forests and national parks in the state. The minister also said it was “alarming” that forest guards had been “unaware” of such poaching taking place. More searches are being conducted by forest officials, using sniffer dogs during the day, in an attempt to find more clues.
In 2014, two cases of rhino poaching were reported in north Bengal. West Bengal has the second highest population of rhinoceros after Assam. While Jaldapara National Park has about 200 rhinos, the Gorumara National Park has about 50 of them.