Are animal lives more important than human ones? One park in India seems to think so.
Officials at the Kaziranga National Park in India have been accused of torturing and killing poachers and local villagers in an effort to protect the country’s vulnerable rhinoceros population, according to a report by the BBC. The report, which the Indian government has criticized, claims that park guards have essentially been given free rein to gun down would be-poachers and they face few, if any, legal consequences.
The guards allegedly killed 50 people in the last three years, and in 2015, more people died than the number of rhinos that were killed by poachers, according to the BBC’s detailed expose. In some cases, innocent villagers were injured or killed for accidentally trespassing onto the park’s property at night.
Poaching is a big problem for the Indian one-horned rhinoceros, which is found in India and Nepal. Rhino horns sell for thousands of dollars in China, where it is believed to have medicinal properties.
According to the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN), which lists the Indian rhino as a vulnerable species, excessive hunting during the early 20th century and a decline in the quality of their habitat wiped out much of the population. As of 2006, more than 70% of the world’s Indian one-horned rhinos live at the Kaziranga National Park.
There’s no doubt that their efforts have been successful. Fewer rhinos have been poached in recent years, and the overall rhino population continues to increase. But some activists say these brutal measures go too far.
After the report was published in 2017, India’s National Tiger Conservation Authority banned the BBC from filming in the country’s tiger reserves for five years. However, the publication stands by its reporting.
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