Public Burning of Rhino Horn Stockpiles Moves Forward in Assam

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The public burning of Assam’s rhino horn stockpiles could occur sooner rather than later.


Earlier this year, Assam wildlife authorities hatched a bold plan for some old-school activism: The public burning of the state’s 1,571 stockpiled rhino horns.

And the latest from Assam is that the radical event could be taking place by month’s end.

Sending a message: Rhino horn has ‘no monetary or medicinal value’

The public burning of just over 1,500 rhino horns is intended to send a serious message to rhino poachers, wildlife traders – and anyone else engaging in the illegal rhino horn business – that rhino horn has no monetary or medicinal value.

The Secretary General of wildlife NGO Aaranyak and Asian Rhino Specialist Group chair, Dr. Bibhab Talukdar, approves of the decision as way to show Assam’s full commitment to rhino conservation.

… the decision is a laudable one, as it would send a strong message across the world that rhino horn was not a valuable item as was believed.

Dr. Talukdar also stated earlier that he would like further attention brought to the event by having it filmed.

The whole event of burning of horns should be transparent and videographer.

But not everyone in Assam agrees with the plan.

Resistance from poaching ‘hotspot’

Assam’s bold plan has met with protests in Karbi Anglong, where various student groups are opposed to the burning.

The resistance in Karbi Anglong does not come as a surprise: Villagers from the Karbi Anglong district are frequently paid to assist rhino poachers in finding their targets in Kaziranga National Park, and poachers are known to evade authorities by escaping through the Karbi Anglong district.

One student said via The Telegraph that the horns should instead be kept in a museum.

This is a rare item here and should be kept in a museum so that future generations will at least be able to see it.

However, by burning the stockpiles, Assam wildlife authorities are determined that future generations will be able to see the horns on the rhinos, rather than in museums.

Will China get the message?

The greater one-horned rhino (Rhinoceros unicorns) population is currently around 2,850. Although the IUCN recently reclassified the species as Vulnerable, these rhinos still face an ongoing threat of illegal killing for their horns.

Insatiable demand for rhino horn in east Asia, especially China, is behind the demand for rhino horn. Rising incomes in the region – and heavy funding of the Chinese pharmaceutical industry – have made it possible for an unprecedented number of people to purchase so-called “medicines” derived from rhino horn and manufactured by Chinese pharmaceutical companies.

Despite being a CITES signatory, China has not shown restraint in its own demand for rhino horn, nor does it appear to follow international laws governing the illegal trade in rhino horn.

Let’s hope China gets the message loud and clear when Assam’s stockpiles are burned.

Source: The Telegraph, 10 June 2010 and India Blooms News Service, 11 June 2010

Photo: istock.com

Rhishja Cota-Larson

I am the founder of Annamiticus, an educational nonprofit organization which provides news and information about wildlife crime and endangered species. I am the Editor of Rhino Horn is Not Medicine and Project Pangolin, author of the book Murder, Myths & Medicine, a writer for the environmental news blog Planetsave, the host of Behind the Schemes, and Producer for the upcoming documentary The Price. When I'm not blogging about the illegal wildlife trade, I enjoy gardening, reading, designing, and rocking out to live music.

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2 Comments

  1. Well done to the Wildlife Authorities of Assam! Good first step – now to educate the Chinese people that rhino horn has absolutely NO medicinal properties!

  2. Citizen’s Meeting demands forensic test before disposing off rhino horns

    The Journalists’ Forum, Assam in Northeast India has organized a citizen’s meet at Guwahati Press Club today. Various environmental organizations and individuals participated in the meeting. The meeting unanimously resolved three decisions for greater interest of wildlife protection initiatives in Assam.

    In its first resolution, the meeting demanded that the authority must ensure a transparent forensic test of the ‘to be burn’ over 1500 endengered rhino horns by the forest department of Assam. Mentionable that Assam forest department has already made a decision (also make it public) to dispose off all the rhino horns in its possession. The department has also formed a committee under the chairmanship of Principal Chief Conservator of Forest and Head of Forest Force of Assam to monitor the matter.

    In the second resolution the meeting reiterated its demand for a CBI enquiry to probe against the rhino poaching and various anomalies alleged against the forest department of Assam. Mentionable that Journalists’ Forum, Assam along with All Assam Students’ Union and Nature’s Beckon had raised voices for a high level probe against rhino poaching in various forest reserves of Assam. Even the Chief Minister Tarun Gogoi and State Forest Minister Rockybul Hussain declared two years back that the government was ready for a CBI probe. But no steps have been taken so far.

    In the third resolution the meeting appreciated the forest department’s decision to organize the public hearings before burning the rhino horns. But at the same time the meeting appealed the district-wise observation committee to make ensure that the forensic test takes place in order to maintain its transparency.

    The meeting was presided over by Rupam Barua, president JFA where environment activists Somyadeep Datta of Nature’s Beckon, Malay Barua of Early Birds, Bibhuti Prasad Lahkar of Aranyak, Sanjay Sonowal of Assam Forest Protection Group, Utpal Nath of Pabitora Conservation Society, Bedabrat Lahkar of JUA, Pulin Kalita of AUWJ, Biraj Choudhury, Bhaimon Hazarika, Jagadindra Raichoudhury, Mukul Kalita, Mubina Akhter, Sabita Lahkar, Jayanta Gogoi, Nirab Barman, Buljit Buragohain, Namita Bora, Mohidhar Barman and others expressed their views.

    The meeting also condoled the murder of a forest guard (of Orang National Park) named Hasan Ali, 50 on June 12 last by the miscreants with one minute silence.