Assam burns 2,479 rhino horns to dispel myth about their medicinal value


Setting a record of sorts on the occasion of World Rhino Day, the Assam government on Wednesday burnt 2,479 rhino horns at a public function to destroy the world’s largest stockpile of rhino horns in order to bust the myth that they have amazing medicinal value.

Assam Chief Minister Himanta Biswa Sarma, who was the chief guest at the function held at Bokakhat stadium in Golaghat district, said that today (Wednesday) is a historic day for Assam and India as an extraordinary step to burn the largest ever stockpile of 2,479 rhino horns has been taken, the highest in the world, pursuing the vision of Prime Minister Narendra Modi of putting an end to poaching in Assam.

He said: “One-horned rhino is not only integral to our civilisation, but also a symbol of our prized heritage and identity. We are preserving 94 rhino horns for display at a museum to be set up at the Kaziranga National Park. The use of rhino horns for medicinal purposes is a myth.”

Sarma said that burning the rhino horns has made it clear that Assam would never trade them and the people of the state do not believe that the horns have medicinal value.

“We would respect and love the rhinos alive and protect them in their natural habitats,” he said.

According to forest and wildlife officials, among the reconciled rhino horns, the heaviest horn weighed 3.05 kg, while the average weight of horns was 560 gm.

They said that of the reconciled horns, the longest one was 57 cm, with an average standing height of 13.77 cm.

Assam is home to 71 per cent of the world’s one-horn rhino population.

Assam’s Forest and Environment Minister Parimal Suklabaidya, who was also present at the function, said that never before such a huge stockpile of rhino horns has been consigned to flames to spread the message loud and clear that rhino horns are no ‘aphrodisiac’.

“The myth has to be busted to put an end to the poaching of the majestic rhinos once and for all,” he said.

The minister said that the event would send a strong message to the poachers that the horn doesn’t have any medicinal value and it’s trade is completely illegal.

“Based on pure myth, with no scientific backing, rhino horns are used in traditional Chinese medicines. Due to their demand in some countries, poaching pressure on rhinos is ever persistent and it is intended that consigning rhino horns to flames will dispel these myths and send a strong message across the world,” an official statement said.

It said that this is also a best practice to promote wildlife conservation and nowhere in the world has an exercise of such scale been undertaken with respect to rhino horns.

Prior to selecting the horns, an over a month long elaborate process of reconciliation of horns stored in seven treasuries had been carried out by a committee chaired by Assam’s Chief Wildlife Warden and Additional Principal Chief Conservator of Forest (Wildlife), Mahendra Kumar Yadav, with the help of a technical committee and seven respective zonal committees.

The reconciliation exercise was carried out in the presence of civil society groups, members from NGOs, media, police and district administration officials.

The officials said that the entire process was done in accordance with the Wildlife (Protection) Act, 1972, while a public hearing on the rhino horn burning had also been carried out on August 29.

The Assam Cabinet at its meeting chaired by the Chief Minister on September 16 had approved the burning proposal.

Assam presently has an estimated population of 2,640 Indian one-horn rhinos.

The Kaziranga National Park and Tiger Reserve is home to more than 2,400 rhinos, while the rest are in Manas and Orang National Parks, and in the Pobitora Wildlife Sanctuary.

The Assam government has decided to set up a Natural History Museum at the Kaziranga National Park where 94 rhino horns, extracted from animals which had died naturally, will be kept and preserved scientifically as heritage pieces for public viewing and academic purposes.