Speculations regarding possible nexus between forest officials and rhino poachers in Assam are gaining momentum after the Anti-Corruption Cell of Assam Police recovered Rs 2.71 crore in cash from the residence of divisional forest officer of Dhemaji, Mahat Chandra Talukdar. Also, the police seized large number of animal parts from the DFO’s residence.

Reports provided from the forest department reveal that the DFO had served in Kaziranga National Park for more than 4 years. He was working as a forest ranger during 1989-1993. During this period, at least 189 rhinos were killed in the park.

After Assam forest minister Pramila Rani Brahma stated that those animal parts recovered from the two residences of the DFO were possibly supplied from the Kaziranga National Park, the possible nexus was speculated by the investigation agencies.

In 1989, 42 rhinos were killed and de-horned in the park while in 1990, 29 of them and in 1992, 24 of them were killed by the poachers. In most of the cases, poaching took place in Agartali range where Mahat Chandra Talukdar served as a ranger.

Mahat Ch Talukdar, DFO, Dhemaji at the Anti Corruption Branch office, Guwahati prior to interrogation after Rs 2 crore was recovered during raids by the police

In 1992, Mahat Chandra Talukdar was transferred to Bagari range of the park where he served for two years. 48 rhinos were killed in 1992, and 41 were killed in 1993.

Forest minister Pramila Rani Brahma stated that Mahat Chandra Talukdar could be behind the killings and has sought reports on rhino poaching incidents in Kaziranga during Talukdar’s tenure at the Kaziranga National Park. “I think all the animal parts recovered from the DFO’s house are from Kaziranga National Park. His association with rhino poachers is something that should be part of the investigation. A thorough probe will bring this fact to light,” the minister said.

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