Two rhino poachers were killed in Kazaringa National Park in the Assam region of India on Jan. 1, following the murder of a guard in a nearby park the previous day.
According to officials, five to six poachers entered the park on Sunday to attempt to kill a rhino. Two were killed and the others fled, escaping capture.
A rhino was killed in another park in Assam on Dec. 31. A member of the Assam Home Guard, the force that guards the region’s national parks, was also killed by the rhino poachers. The fallen guard was identified as 35-year-old Sushil Seal, who lived near the park. Officials said an investigation has been launched to find the poachers who killed Seal.
While most rhino poaching occurs in Africa, it is a continuing problem in Assam, home to the world’s largest population of endangered Indian, or one-horned rhinos. Poachers have killed nearly 200 rhinos in Assam over the past 13 years, including 20 in 2014.
Their methods involve shooting the animals from afar, trapping them in pits, poisoning them or even electrocuting them. Like in Africa, the demand is largely driven by an Asian traditional medicinal market, which values the rhino horns and skin for its alleged healing power. Many buyers in Vietnam even believe rhino horn, made out of the same material as human fingernails, to be able to cure cancer.
In recent years the Assam government has set up a special task force to guard rhinos and has killed 22 poachers in the state. In 2014, the Assam government also considered a policy of dehorning rhinos to protect them from poachers, although this proposal was widely discouraged by local conservationists as a gesture of defeat.