Lord of the rhinos

Poachers are slaughtering Indian rhinos and unless the killing stops now this majestic animal could disappear in a decade. Thegovernment is finally paying attention but words alone won’t save the rhino. Let’s get the government to invest in stopping the rhino-killers before it’s too late.

The government had let the poachers run riot by removing rangers from the world heritage Kaziranga National Park. Popular pressure forced them to bring back some experienced staff and step up monitoring, but the rangers are up against ruthless Rambo-style poachers carrying AK47 assault rifles. Park staffers say they need more men and better equipment to stop the killings but the system is reacting too slowly. If we get behind these rangers now with a massive public outcry, we can force the central government to give Assam enough resources to rescue our rhinos from the butchers.

Sign this petition to Prime Minister Manmohan Singh, elected from Assam, telling him to deploy the right resources and manpower immediately to protect the rhinos in his constituency. When over 50,000 of us sign, Avaaz will deliver one life-sized rhino for every 10,000 signatures to his office.

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Just four national parks in India’s eastern state of Assam account for 80% of the world’s one-horned rhino population. With only approximately 2,500 rhinos left in Assam, the animal is under serious threat of extinction due to poaching. Rhinos are killed because their horn fetches huge sums of money for the killers. Quacks in places like China and Vietnam turn the horns into bogus medical remedies sold at inflated prices.

There was a time when no one would dare venture into the Kaziranga National Park after dark because it meant receiving a Park ranger’s bullet.But in the last two years the park has suffered from demotivated management and inadequate funding, so poachers have won the advantage. Many of these poachers have links to militant groups who sell rhino horn to buy heavy weapons, which they employ to kill even more rhinos.

Simply arming the Park staff with equally dangerous weapons is not the answer. Instead, we need to hire, motivate and train more staff to patrol all parts of the massive Kaziranga National Park and protect the wildlife corridors of the neighbouring Karbi Anglong highlands, so critical to rhinos. These rhino-defenders need night-vision glasses and sophisticated communications equipment that will help prevent violence rather than fuel gun battles inside animal sanctuaries. Already drones with video cameras attached have been successfully tested as anti-poaching devices.

Park staff are fighting an uphill battle against the poachers with much too little support. Fortunately, the government has already shown it will act if the public demands protection for rhinos. Their first step was to bring back some good officials. Now let’s get rangers all the remaining manpower and equipment they need to save rhinos. Sign this petition and share it with everyone:

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Avaaz members have come together to fight for protection for the world’s most endangered species – whether its to stop the slaughter of elephants in Africa or tigers in Maharashtra. Let’s unite again to restore the rhinos rightful place as a special jewel in India’s diverse wildlife.

With hope and determination,

Bittu Sahgal with the Sanctuary Asia and Avaaz teams