Assam's trapped rhino gets security cover



Guwahati: The one-horned rhinoceros trapped since Sunday in a sandbar of the Brahmaputra river is unlikely to be rescued soon.

Officials of the Assam forest department told a news agency on Wednesday that they were waiting for the right time to tranquilise the rhino before airlifting it to one of the state's protected areas near the sandbar.

The adult male rhino, suspected to have been washed away from Pobitora Wildlife Sanctuary in the recent floods, got stuck in a sandbar called Rani Chapori, about 25 km west of Guwahati. Locals spotted the rhino Sunday and informed the forest department.

"There are swamps in the sandbar. Any effort to tranquilise the animal might prove risky. If the rhino runs towards the river after we shoot the tranquiliser dart, rescue might get even more difficult," said Assam's Principal Chief Conservator of Forest (Wildlife) Suresh Chand, talking to a news agency on Wednesday.

"We have organised round-the-clock security for the animal in the sandbar, no one can harm it there. Both the police force and forest personnel were deployed, and food is being provided to it there," Chand said.

The Assam government had been trying to airlift the animal to Pabitora Wildlife Sanctuary, using Indian Air Force choppers. An IAF chopper flew to Rani Chapori sandbar several times Monday and Tuesday, and a chopper even landed on the sandbar despite mud and swamps. The rhino, however, could not be tranquilised as there were fears that the animal might run deeper into the river and complicate the whole rescue mission.

Assam Forest Minister Rockybul Hussain visited the Rani Chapori sandbar on Tuesday and discussed the rescue operation with forest officials.

"Trucks and other vehicles cannot reach the sandbar. So air lifting the animal after tranquilisation is really the only option," Chand said.

"However, we are not sure when the opportune moment for firing the tranquilisation dart will present itself, we're waiting," Chand said.

IANS