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Asia Pacific Forum of Environmental Journalists (APFEJ) has welcomed the decision of Assam government’s forest department to dispose rhino horns stored in the state treasuries.

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The forum said that the decision will disseminate the message that the horns does not carry any aphrodisiac quality, for which the rhinos are poached across the world.

“There are ample scopes for apprehension that with the opportunity many fake rhino horns would be disposed and those might be smuggled into international market. Need not to mention that the rhino horns, because of superstition (linked to Viagra), can fetch a million dollar in the illegal markets spread across east Asia,” said a statement issued by the journalists’ forum, headquartered at Dhaka in Bangladesh.

The environment and forest department in Assam started the process to verify over 2,500 rhino horns seized from poachers, smugglers or extracted from dead animals over the last four decades. State wildlife warden Amit Sahai informed the media that the verification process of the horns in the districts of Kamrup, Barpeta and Morigaon were already completed.

Sahai also informed that the forest department prefers to dispose most of the rhino horns on India’s national elephant appreciation day on September 22.

Chief wildlife warden MK Yadava declared that around five per cent of these horns would be preserved for education, awareness and scientific purposes. However, he admitted that the department would take a final decision after a public hearing scheduled for August 29.

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“Officially known as the greater one-horned rhinoceros and found primarily in India and Nepal, they are listed as vulnerable on the IUCN red list. Assam in Northeast India alone is shelter to over 2650 one-horned rhinos. World famous Kaziranga National Park is known for its more than 2,400 rhinos along with other precious wildlife,” added the APFEJ statement.

“One can remember that Assam government constituted a horn verification panel in the middle of 2016 and the allegations surfaced that fake horns were being used to replace the real ones in the government treasuries. During the process a total of 2,020 horns were reportedly found in various state treasuries,” said APFEJ president Quamrul Islam Chowdhury and secretary Nava Thakuria, adding that the forest department should make its stand clear before setting the final procedure.

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