12-member team to inspect amid high security, forensic experts set up field camp to check genuineness
BY OUR STAFF REPORTER
GUWAHATI, Aug 10: The verification of rhino horns, stored in various treasuries of Assam since 1980, will start from tomorrow. The verification includes checking genuineness besides updating the complete inventory of rhino horns in custody of the State government.
The first treasury to be opened is Golaghat, which has the highest number of rhino horns stored in government custody. Almost all these rhino horns are of Kaziranga tiol Park. The Rhino Horn Verification Committee under the chairmanship of former Assam State Information Commissioner Mohan Chandra Malakar, IFS assembled on Wednesday at Golaghat for the process, which will start at 1000 hours tomorrow in a secured room inside the Golaghat Circuit House.
The 12-member committee has four wildlife experts, two representatives from media, one RTI activist, one forensic scientist beside four high officials of Assam Forest Department.
The trunks containing the rhino horns will be carried in batches from the Treasury to the Golaghat circuit house under heavy security. Special security arrangements have been made for this by the district authorities both during transportation as well as the verification process.
The trunks will be opened only in front of those Forest officials, who had actually signed and sealed at the time of depositing the trunks, to check the genuineness of the trunks. It is noteworthy that every trunk, containing rhino horns, was sealed in presence of four to five Forest officials before it was deposited in the treasury.
Efforts will be made to open any trunk in presence of maximum possible sigtories who would have to authenticate that the trunk is genuine and the seal on the trunk is intact. The strict protocol has been formulated to fix responsibility in case of any unwarranted development.
Only after authentication, the trunk will be opened and the horns will be examined initially physically. Any suspicion by any member would be given due importance and the particular horn would be referred to experts of the State Forensic Laboratory. The forensic experts have also set up a field lab at the Golaghat circuit house for scientific verification.
The entire process will be live streamed for transparency, as secured room will be out of bound for all except the committee members, and there will be two regular media briefings during the course of the day. The first one will be at 1100 hours and the next one will be at 1700 hours.
The committee will visit every treasury of Assam where the horns are stored and are expected to file the report within 60 days. The rhino horns are scattered in 12 treasuries of Assam, maximum being in Golaghat followed by gaon, Guwahati and Tezpur.
Despite several initiatives taken up by the Assam government to curb rhino poaching, the spiraling demand for rhino horns in several Southeast Asian countries is luring local poachers to hunt the animal found in few wildlife sanctuaries in the State. The incidence of rhino poaching mainly for their horns is largely evident in KNP.
Poachers who kill rhinos in the State make huge profit by selling their horns through agents located in countries like Myanmar, Vietm, Taiwan, Korea, Thailand, Chi and even far away South Africa. Sources said local poachers, many of them living near the KNP or adjoining areas, also have links with agents who are based in border areas of Manipur, Mizoram, galand and Aruchal Pradesh.
"Traders of rhino horns in some Southeast Asian countries have appointed agents in these border states of the Northeast to avoid security problems. Instead of sending their own agents, these traders are using people based in these NE states to run their business smoothly and clandestinely. Open intertiol borders in some of the NE states have also aggravated the problem," sources added.
The rising demand is considered a significant factor in the growing illegal rhino horn trade in Assam. The rhino horns entering Myanmar, Vietm, Taiwan, Korea, Thailand and Chi are mainly sourced from the State.
Sources stated that smuggling of rhino horns in the State has been taking place since 1962, but of late, smuggling of horns has increased.
The demand for rhino horn as a curative is high in Vietm and Chi, and the horns are offered for sale in shops and online in these countries. "In some of these Southeast Asian countries, rhino horns are highly prized for their use in traditiol medicines, especially medicines used for increasing sexual drive in people," sources said.
It has been used for centuries in Chinese medicine, where it is turned into powder and often mixed with hot water to treat a variety of maladies, including rheumatism, gout, high fever and even devil possession.
Asian rhino horn smuggling routes run from India through Nepal to Tibet and into other regions of Chi and through northern Myanmar.
According to sources, one rhino horn fetches about Rs 30 lakh in countries like Taiwan, Vietm and Chi. Some Chinese smugglers based in Dimapur are controlling the rhino horn trade racket in Assam, sources added.
*The rising demand is considered a significant factor in the growing illegal rhino horn trade in Assam.
*The rhino horns entering Myanmar, Vietm, Taiwan, Korea, Thailand and Chi are mainly sourced from Assam.
*The demand for rhino horn as a curative is high in Vietm and Chi, and the horns are offered for sale in shops and online in these countries.
*Asian rhino horn smuggling routes run from India through Nepal to Tibet and into other regions of Chi and through northern Myanmar.
*One rhino horn fetches about Rs 30 lakh in countries like Taiwan, Vietm and Chi.