Vets in northeast India battled on Thursday to save a rare rhino whose horn was hacked off by poachers who are stepping up attacks on animals fleeing rising floods in Assam state.
The gravely injured rhino was found in the deluged Kaziranga National Park, bleeding from a huge wound on its face after poachers cut off its horn, nose and part of its ear.
Animal rights groups and local residents near the park staged angry demonstrations on Thursday denouncing the government for failing to combat poaching after a third rhino was attacked in two days.
"The rhino whose horn was sheared off by poachers is being operated upon by a team of veterinarians to remove bullets stuck up inside the abdomen, besides treating the wounds," park warden Dibyadhar Gogoi told reporters.
Raging floodwaters have submerged the 430-square-kilometre (166 square-mile) park in eastern Assam, which is home to the largest concentration of the world's remaining one-horned rhinos.
As well as the injured rhino, another was found shot dead on Wednesday and a further carcass was discovered on Thursday.
"We are worried and forced to believe that there is some nexus between poacher gangs and forest officials," the leader of the influential All Assam Students' Union Tapan Gogoi told AFP.
A 2012 census in the park put the number of the creatures at 2,290, of a global population of 3,300.
The species declined to near extinction in the early 1990s and is currently listed as "vulnerable" by the International Union for Conservation of Nature.
Kaziranga has fought a sustained battle against rhino poachers who kill the animals for their horns, which fetch huge prices in some Asian countries where they are deemed to have aphrodisiac qualities.
Floods have swamped 19 of Assam's 27 districts, displacing two million people over the last two weeks, according to official figures.
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