Poachers kill rhino hours after royal visit

GUWAHATI (India) • Poachers shot dead a rhinoceros at a wildlife park in north-east India hours after Britain's Prince William and his wife Kate visited the sanctuary, a wildlife official said yesterday.

Rangers found the dead rhino with its horn missing on Thursday - the day the royal couple left the Kaziranga National Park in Assam state, home to about two-thirds of the planet's remaining one-horned rhinos.

"Poachers used AK-47 assault rifles to kill the adult male rhino and ... they took away its horn," senior forest officer Subasish Das said.

It was the second rhino killing in the past four days. Poachers killed an adult rhino on Monday before gouging out its horn.

Kaziranga has fought a sustained battle against poachers who kill the rhinos for their horns, which fetch huge prices in some Asian countries where they are used for medicines and jewellery. The park's website said 27 rhinos were poached in 2014 and another 17 last year.

A recent census estimated there were 2,400 one-horned rhinos, currently listed as "vulnerable" by conservation groups, in Kaziranga, out of a global population of 3,300.

During their visit to Kaziranga, the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge met wildlife officials battling to protect vulnerable rhinos from poachers and fed a rhino calf with a giant milk bottle.

Prince William, the second-in-line to the British throne, has repeatedly condemned illegal wildlife trafficking and has encouraged anti-poaching efforts. He is a patron of the elephant conservation charity Tusk Trust.

A spokesman for the royal couple said they had been upset by the poaching. "The Duke and Duchess were angry to hear about the killing of this rhino during their visit," British broadcaster ITV quoted the spokesman as saying.

AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on April 16, 2016, with the headline 'Poachers kill rhino hours after royal visit'. Print Edition | Subscribe