Guwahati: The Assam cabinet chaired by chief minister Dr. Himanta Biswa Sarma on Thursday (September 16) decided to destroy almost 2,500 rhino horns. The rhino horns have been preserved in government treasuries across the state during the past four decades.
The horns, which were seized from poachers and traders of animal parts or recovered from dead rhinos in the state's national parks and wildlife sanctuaries since 1979 till now, are stored in 12 district treasuries at present.
After the cabinet meeting, Forest minister Parimal Suklabaidya said, "There are 2,623 such horns in various treasury offices of the state. 50 these horns are associated with pending court cases and can't be destroyed due to legal process. 94 others will be preserved in the natural history museum to be set up in Kaziranga for exhibition or educational purposes. The cabinet today decided that the remaining 2,479 horns will be destroyed,"
It should be mentioned that the Assam government had engaged an expert committee to examine the status of the preserved rhino horns. The committee also held various public hearings on the issue. The committee submitted its report to the government last month. Forest minister Suklabaidya said, "The expert committee, after examining the horns in a scientific way, observed the opinion that ninety-four horns will be kept in a natural history museum to be set up near Kaziranga National Park. The museum will also have other wildlife exhibits like ivory tusks, deer horns, etc., from Assam," he said.
The cabinet didn't announce any date for destroying the horns.
Though there is no scientific basis, rhino horns are part of traditional medicine in some Asian countries, such as China and Vietnam. Experts say that the price of the horns in international markets goes up to crores in Indian currency because of the superstition variable.
Assam is home to the world's largest population of one-horned rhinos. According to a 2018 census, there are nearly 2,650 rhinos in the state, with around 2,400 of them concentrated in Kaziranga National Park. Poachers in Assam killed hundreds of one horn rhinos, mainly in the Kaziranga National Park, during the tenure of the previous Congress government. The poaching of rhinos has come down almost 90% since the BJP came into power in Assam in 2016.
Wildlife experts have welcomed the government's move to destroy the horns, as they believe it will send a signal that these horns are just body parts of a wild animal and it doesn't have any medicinal value to buy at a high price.