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After 7 rhinos slaughtered, India races to protect one from death

A rare rhinoceros was left fighting for its life in Kaziranga, India, after poachers shot the animal and cut off its horn. NBC's Richard Lui reports.

Had it not been for the slaughter of seven rhinos in India's Assam state last week, a rhino swept out of a wildlife reserve by floodwaters might now be the eighth. Instead, dozens of elite park rangers on Tuesday surrounded a river area where the one-horned rhino was hiding, as experts weighed whether to try airlifting the massive animal to a safer area.

The killings made headlines in Assam since some took place inside Kaziranga National Park, a UNESCO World Heritage Site. At least two of the rhinos were alive when their horns were hacked off, The Times of India reported.

Each horn can fetch thousands of dollars. The horns are used in parts of Asia, either carved into bowls or cups as a status of wealth, or ground up as a powder used to treat hangovers or even as a purported cancer cure.

Assam's rhino population has improved in recent years, and the species is no longer listed as endangered in Assam. Nearly 2,300 are inside the national park, the last stronghold for rhinos in India.


A dead rhino is removed from inside India's Kaziranga National Park last Friday. It was shot dead and its horn removed.

But officials are worried that rising prices for horns will counter that effort.

Eleven rhinos have been killed by poachers so far this year in Assam, while recent flooding has killed 28 rhinos.

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Three suspected poachers have been killed and 14 arrested so far this year, the government says.

Biju Boro / AFP - Getty Images

An Indian forest official on Thursday shows the shells from bullets used by poachers to shoot a one-horned horn rhino just outside Kaziranga National Park. The dead rhino is seen in the background with its horn cut off.

Local conservation groups on Monday staged a protest in Guwahati, a city near the national park, issuing a statement that park officials had not "learned lessons" from several rhino killings in June. "The Forest Department has miserably failed to elicit support" from local residents "towards conservation efforts," they said in a statement, according to the Assam Tribune.

A spike in rhino killings has also been reported in South Africa this year. And Vietnam lost its last Javan rhino last year to poachers.

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