Rhino horn burning to bust a myth- Move aimed at telling poachers that body part has no medicinal value
Guwahati, Feb. 22: Finally, Assam is fighting fire with fire.
Nearly 1,500 rhino horns — lying in different treasuries and strongrooms across the state — will be burnt next month, possibly in the presence of members of international conservation agencies.
The public burning of such a huge quantity of rhino horns — which ironically is the biggest enemy of the pre-historic and endangered mammal — was aimed at sending the message that the state “was fully committed” to rhino conservation.
The most important message will, however, go out to the clandestine wildlife traders and believers of traditional medicines: the rhino horn really does not have any value in monetary terms and does not have any medicinal values as believed.
The rhino horns have been lying in treasuries since 1978 when its sale in Assam was banned.
S. Chand, chief wildlife warden of Assam, told The Telegraph today that the government had issued a notification stating that committees for each district had been constituted for disposal of all rhino horns in possession of the forest department except those required as exhibits in court cases.
“The decision is in full consonance with wildlife laws of the country and international rules,” he added.
There are at present 1,571 rhino horns lying in various treasuries and strongrooms of divisional forest officers across the state.
The horns are lying in treasuries in 10 districts of the state — Jorhat, Nagaon, Kamrup, Sonitpur, Darrang, Lakhimpur, Nalbari, Golaghat, Barpeta and Kokrajhar. The eastern Assam wildlife division, which covers Kaziranga, has the maximum stock of rhino horns.
The forest department has already informed the Centre about the decision to burn the horns.
Chand said a foolproof process was now being chalked out in consultation with experts on proper disposal of the ashes after the rhino horns are burnt.
“Once the process is finalised, guidelines will be circulated to the officers concerned to go ahead,” he said.
Bibhab Talukdar, the secretary general of wildlife NGO Aaranyak said the decision taken by the state government “was a progressive step taken to send a strong signal to the international community”.
“The whole event of burning of horns should be transparent and videographed,” he added.
The Wildlife Protection Act says that “where any meat, uncured trophy, specified plant or part or derivative thereof is seized, under the provisions of this section, the assistant director of wildlife preservation or any other officer of a gazetted rank authorised by him on his behalf or the chief wildlife warden or the authorised officer may arrange for the disposal of the same in such a manner as may be prescribed”.
The Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora (CITES) has asked the member countries to declare the status of any stocks of rhinoceros horns and derivatives.
A comprehensive declaration form has been given in which the CITES has asked the countries to outline the policy on the disposal of seized horns (and products), summary of how rhino horns and product stocks are marked registered and secured. Besides, it has sought reports on the security and storage, registration and audits, trade and possession controls, rhino horns and other raw horn material in state possession and summary of horns sold (internally or externally), stolen or destroyed since 2000.
The rhino horns are either seized from poachers and smugglers or collected from carcasses of rhinos which died a natural death.