HORN OF CONTENTION
By Our Staff Reporter
Guwahati, June 23: There are fresh worries among forest and administration officials over the security of rhino horns kept at the treasury office in Golaghat.
Under pressure, Forest minister Pramila Rani Brahma today told The Sentinel she would form a team, comprising forensic experts, media and other stakeholders, to verify if the horns are intact in the treasury.
"There has been lot of doubts among the people regarding safety of the horns kept at the treasury. I will persolly verify it. I will also take forensic experts, members from organizations and the media along during the verification," she said.
The minister said that after verifying, she would take a public opinion on what to do with the horns.
Official sources said there are altogether 1,702 horns - of rhinos which died turally - kept at the Golaghat treasury.
While some organizations have been suspecting that some of these horns have gone missing from the treasury, Forest department officials claim all are intact. The officials, however, say that some of the horns might have been damaged due to fungus attack as no preservatives were used to store them.
Normally, when a rhino dies, the ranger of that range collects the horn, cleans it and notes down the size and weight before taking it to the DFO office where the size and weight is measured again. Later, the weight and size is taken again in presence of the park director and other officials of the administration, before sealing it in a box and depositing it at the treasury. The keys of the treasury are kept at the DFO office, and hence forest officials say there is little scope for leakage or foul play in the exercise.
"However, with the illegal trading of rhino horn assuming alarming proportions, it would not be safe anymore to continue with the exercise. The best is to burn the horns and destroy them completely," said some senior forest officials.
The then Forest minister Rakibul Hussain had formed a committee to look into the pros and cons of burning the horns. Though the committee favoured the proposition, it raised the hackles of some NGOs which wanted the government to conduct the exercise in their presence. This led to a standoff and the plan was then abandoned.
Now, as the safety of the horns has raked up fresh debate, there is an increasing clamour within the Forest department to burn these down, which, according to the officials, will close the chapter once and for all.