India’s Kaziranga National Park lost another rhino to poachers on Wednesday, taking the toll to 12 this year so far in the World Heritage Site.
Park officials suspect involvement of militants in the latest killing at Kukurakata in Kaziranga’s Burapahar forest range.
Officials said 14 empty cartridges of AK-47 rifle were found from the spot where the female rhino was killed. The horn of the rhino is missing.
“The involvement of militants is corroborated with the empty cartridges of AK-47 rifle because poachers usually do not use such arms to kill a rhino,” a senior park official said.
The militants might have come from Kaziranga’s neighboring Karbi Anglong district, where armed groups are active.
Soon after the killing, there was an encounter between poachers and forest guards at three different places after park officials sealed all probable exit routes. One of the killers was killed.
“One of our teams was ambushed when they tried to cordon off the area where the rhino was killed. There was exchange of fire, but the poachers managed to move to another location where some of our men were attacked. There was another encounter. We are still combing the area,” the official was quoted as saying by local Indian media.
Kaziranga has about 2,000 rhinos.