GUWAHATI: Patriotic People's Front Assam (PPFA) has supported the initiative to dispose of wildlife parts, including the rhinoceros horns, kept in State treasuries for decades, but it demands full transparency in the process. The forum of nationalist citizens urged Chief Minister Himanta Biswa Sarma to ensure that only the certified genuine horns are burnt in presence of distinguished personalities in full public view.
The State cabinet recently resolved to destroy 2,479 rhino horns, out of 2,623 horns stored in various treasuries. The State forest and environment department has already conducted the verification process to identify probable fake horns among the real ones in 12 treasuries across Assam as allegations were raised that a section of corrupt forest officials would destroy those fake horns and later smuggle those into international markets, stated a press release.
Earlier, the Dhaka based Asia-Pacific Forum of Environmental Journalists welcomed the initiative to spread the message that rhino horns do not carry any aphrodisiac quality, for which the gigantic animals are poached across the world, but it also put forward a condition that those must be scientifically confirmed as real ones. It highlighted that the horns could fetch a million dollars in illegal markets spread across east Asia and hence the issue should be resolved amicably.
Officially known as the greater one-horned rhinoceros and found primarily in India and Nepal, the rhinos are listed as vulnerable on the IUCN red list. Assam alone gives shelter to over 2,650 one-horned rhinos in its forest reserves. Kaziranga National Park is widely known for its over 2,400 rhinos along with other precious wildlife.
Years back, northeast India's active conservation group Nature's Beckon claimed that the State forest department used to sell rhino horns even after India adopted the wildlife protection act in 1972. The department allegedly sold 13 horns during 1972-73, 19 in 1973-74, 40 (1974-75), 18 (1975-76), 27 (1976-78), 42 (1977-78), 63 (1978-79), 63 (1978-79) and 61 (1979-80). The group asserted that a large share of wildlife parts from the department's stocks was sold in international markets.
"We expect only the scientifically proved rhino horns are disposed of in presence of wildlife experts, environment enthusiasts, eminent personalities from various other fields of activities," said a PPFA statement, adding that the process must not give scope to corrupt officials to illegally sell the siphoned away horns from the consignment for their personal gains. Moreover, it added that the government should not hurry the process to evade any post-event controversy.