Guwahati, Sept 22: It has happened for the first time on the globe – 2479 rhino horns deposited in government treasuries across Assam were burnt in six pyres at a public playground at Bokakhat near Kaziranga National Park in presence of Assam Chief Minister, Dr Himanta Biswa Sarma, top forest and wildlife officials and other dignitaries.
It was the Chief Minister, Dr Sarma who set the horns in fire in the ceremony organised as per Vedic rituals today, the World Rhino Day.
All these rhino horns were kept in treasuries of Assam. Some of those were seized from poachers / wildlife parts smugglers and the majority of those were collected from rhinos which have died in protected areas naturally.
Before deciding to destroy these horns, the Assam government had examined these rhino horns in phases engaging experts to verify their purity. The Assam Cabinet has already approved the move as per the relevant Section 39 of Wildlife Protection Act, 1972.
It is the horn for which the rhino is killed by poachers given that the horn fetches astronomical prices in the global illegal market of wildlife parts. The price of the rhino horn is fuelled by the unscientific belief (it is rather a superstition) about various medicinal qualities of the horn especially in China, Vietnam etc., countries. In China, powder procured by grinding the rhino horn is used in traditional Chinese medicines to cure a range of ailments, from cancer to hangovers and also as an aphrodisiac. In Vietnam, possessing a rhino horn is considered a status symbol among the neo-rich.
The illegal trade of rhino horn has of late, become a threat to national security given that trade has become linked to weapon smuggling and drugs trade and that brought some armed militants into the business of rhino poaching.
By deciding to burn down these rhino horns, the Assam government wants to drive home the message that there is nothing precious or medicinal about the horn for which the ancient animal is killed by poachers. Biologically speaking, a rhino horn is essentially a mass of complicated hair, rhino horn is made up of keratin, a protein which makes up our hairs and fingernails. The horn continues to grow during the lifetime of an individual rhino.
The government wants to bust the myth over the rhino horn so that it becomes easier to protect the rhino that is thriving in protected areas of Assam including National Parks of Kaziranga, Manas and Orang and Pobitora Wildlife sanctuary.