What is the purpose of the ceremony?
The public ceremony is scheduled at Bokakhat in Kaziranga National Park (KNP) with Chief Minister Himanta Biswa Sarma as the chief guest and several other politicians present .“It’s a loud and clear message to the poachers and smugglers that such items have no value,” said M K Yadava, Chief Wildlife Warden, Assam.
The rhino horns fetch a high price in the global black markets and therefore the Forest Department of Assam stated “ground rhino horn is used in traditional Chinese medicine 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. “Due to demand in these countries, poaching pressure on rhinos is ever persistent against which one cannot let the guard down” it added.
Thus the case for the destruction of horns is a process that is in compliance with Section 39(3)(c) of the Wildlife (Protection) Act of 1972. As per a Gauhati High Court ruling, a public hearing on the destruction was held last month but officials said there were no objections made by the public.
Bibhab Talukdar, chair of the Asian Rhino Specialist Group in the International Union for the Conservation of Nature’s Asian Rhino Specialist Group, and CEO and secretary-general of the NGO Aaranyak, said India was a signatory to CITES (Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Flora and Fauna). “It is illegal to sell the horns in the country anyway. So instead of the horns decaying in treasuries, the decision to burn it will send a clear-cut message that this is not medicine,” he said.
Where were these horns all these years?
The horns have been stored in treasuries across the state over decades. After a rhino dies, either out of natural causes or due to poaching, its horn – essentially a mass of compacted hair – is kept in the custody of the Forest Department in the state treasuries.
The aim was to recount and reverify the horns — while the majority was put aside to be destroyed, 5 percent, which had unique characteristics, were earmarked for preservation.
The verification was completed on September 12. After the reconciliation of 2,623 horns, 2,479 were marked for destruction and 94 for preservation. Among the finds were the longest horn (51.5 cm, weight 2.5 kg) from the Guwahati treasury and the heaviest horn (3.05 kg, 36 cm) from the Bokakhat treasury. Also, 15 African rhino horns were reconciled and 21 were found fake.
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