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Suspected poachers gunned down in Assam wildlife sanctuary, probe ordered


Guwahati, June 23 (IANS) A day before two suspected poachers were gunned down by Assam Forest guards in Assam’s Laokhowa Wildlife Sanctuary, a top forest officer has told that the Forest department has lodged an FIR with the police and ordered a magisterial probe.Assam’s Kaziranga National Park and Tiger Reserve (KNPTR) Director Sonali Ghosh said on Saturday that the forest patrolling parties while on Rhino protection duty near Saraihagi anti-poaching camps confronted a group of 20 armed poachers near Roumari Beel, under Gorajan Range in Laokhowa Wildlife Sanctuary.She added that when challenged, the intruders attacked the forest guards with sharp weapons, and the forest team opened fire in self-defence.Later, the Nagaon Divisional Forest Officer and Superintendent of Police reached the spot and the two fatally wounded intruders were taken to the Nagaon Civil Hospital where they were pronounced dead.The duo was identified as Jalil Uddin and Sameer Uddin, the residents of Dhingbari Chapari village in the Nagaon district.Police said the accused were in their late 20s.Roumari beel and adjoining grassland areas are some of the most prominent rhino habitats under Laokhowa Wildlife Sanctuary, with a 70.13 sq. km area in the Nagaon district that is a part of the greater Kaziranga landscape.The KNPTR Director added that the sanctuary had a tragic past of rhino poaching, illegal fishing, hunting, and encroachment in the 1980s.In the mid-1980s, around 45 rhinos were poached to local extinction. Miscreants are known to have attacked forest staff on multiple occasions.For the last two years, the Forest Department has strengthened the boundaries with additional forest frontline and maintained a strong vigil, the official said, adding that it is due to such interventions that two to three rhinos that had naturally migrated from Orang Tiger Reserve have moved in the Roumari landscape since October last year.At present, the police and Forest Department staff are camping on the site to maintain law and order.The KNPTR is India’s seventh UNESCO world heritage site famous for its one-horned rhinos, and home to more than 2,613 one-horned Indian rhinos and other animals, including tigers and elephants.–IANSsc/khz

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