Indian police arrest 'most wanted' rhino poacher

The greater one-horned rhino is endangered and the largest of its species in the world

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Indian police have arrested a “most wanted” rhino poacher after a year-long manhunt in the remote north-eastern state of Assam.

Abdul Matin, 36, was arrested in the state's Darrang district on Thursday on charges of killing greater one-horned rhinos at Kaziranga National Park.

G P Singh, Special Director-General of Police, Assam, said Mr Matin was "one of the main criminals" involved in the poaching of the vulnerable species.

Indian police arrested Abdul Matin, 36, over charges of poaching the vulnerable greater one-horned rhinos at Kaziranga National Park. Photo: GP Singh / Assam Police

Police launched a search for Mr Matin and his associates after forest officials found the carcass of a rhino in the Hikekhonda area of the national park in January.

Mr Singh said that a rifle believed to have been used in the killing of the animal was recovered from Mr Matin.

The greater one-horned rhino, the largest of all rhinos, is found in north-eastern India and the Terai region in neighbouring Nepal, according to the World Wildlife Fund conservation group.

WWF describes its rescue from the verge extinction in the early 20th century as "among the greatest conservation success stories in Asia", with the population rising from fewer than 100 to more than 4,000 today, according to the International Rhino Foundation.

In India, the Kaziranga National Park — a Unesco world heritage site — is their last natural habitat.

Rhino poaching is being driven by the demand for the animals' horns in some Asian countries, particularly China and Vietnam.

The horns are believed to have medicinal and aphrodisiacal properties despite being made up of keratin - the same substance found in human hair and nails.

The horn is traditionally used in Chinese medicine and is also becoming a status symbol in Vietnam.

Cases of poaching at Kaziranga dropped from 12 in 2016 to one last year — the lowest in two decades — through the efforts of conservationists and forest guards, some of them armed with AK-47 rifles.

But poaching attempts remain rife.

The Assam government last September burnt nearly 2,500 seized horns to mark World Rhino Day.

Updated: December 16, 2022, 12:45 PM