Poachers strike on day Kaziranga opens

Tourists watch a rhino at Kaziranga National Park, which reopened on Monday.
Jorhat, Nov 3 : Forest guards had a fierce exchange of fire with two poachers inside Kaziranga National Park last night, barely 10 hours after forest minister Rockybul Hussain formally opened the park to tourists.

Despite a close chase, the poachers escaped under cover of darkness from Agaratoli range on the western side of the park.
The park staff launched combing operations this morning, hoping to find their hideout.
Yesterday’s incident came just five days after a rhino was killed and its horn taken away by poachers at the same range.
A huge cache of arms, ammunition and other materials were also seized from a boat used by a gang of poachers following an encounter.
Park director Surajit Dutta said it was the guards patrolling the Mahpara area of Agaratoli range who first spotted the movement of two persons and their footprints last night.
He said the guards followed the footprints for some distance when the poachers began firing.
The encounter lasted for about 30 minutes, with the poachers fleeing into thick forest. “Our staff fired over seven rounds after the poachers fired upon them,” Dutta said.
He said the staff were carrying out operations on foot, as well as on elephant.
He said the operations would continue for the next few days.
Patrolling has already been intensified inside the park after a female rhino was killed in the same range on October 27. Dutta said so far five poachers have been killed inside the park this year. Five others surrendered two months ago.
Tours for visitors were operating normally though, the park director added.
The park is home to the single largest population of the great Indian one-horned rhinoceros.
Early this year, the park was found to have the highest ecological density of Royal Bengal tiger (Panthera tigris) — 32 per 100 square km.
A joint study carried out by Aaranyak, a bio-diversity conservation society of the Northeast, and the state forest department, made the claim in April.