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As World Rhino Day is observed on Wednesday, the authorities in India’s northeastern state of Assam burned nearly 2,500 rhino horns to send a “strong message against poaching” of rhinos, the most protected species under the Indian Wildlife act.

The greater one-horned rhino population was once spread across Asia but due to hunting and habitat loss, by the early 1900s, the numbers came down. Over the years, strict policies have increased the population of rhinos, currently more than 3,500.

The Kaziranga National Park in Assam has over 70% of the estimated rhino population currently.

On Wednesday, Chief Minister of the state Himanta Biswa Sarma was part of the event as priests performed rituals.

“Acting on that (earlier government) decision 2,479 horns, out of a total of 2,623 such horns extracted from rhinos that died naturally or accidentally or confiscated from poachers, were consigned to flames today at Bokakhat on World Rhino Day,” an official release issued in Assam said.

It added that 94 rhino horns, based on “size and soundness of architecture will be showcased in a museum to be set up at the Kaziranga National Park, while 29 horns would be kept for ongoing court cases.”

Sarma termed the day as “historic” for Assam and India. “We have taken an extraordinary step of burning (a) stockpile of 2479 horns of single-horned Rhinos, first-of-its-kind globally in volume terms,” he wrote on Twitter.

In a separate tweet, he said a one-horned rhino “is not only integral to our civilization, but also a symbol of our prized heritage and identity.” “The use of rhinos’ horns for medicinal purposes is a myth,” he said.

According to wildlife officials, rhino horns are sold by poachers in South Asia and also used in traditional Chinese medicine. Officials say that due to demand in some countries, “poaching pressure on rhinos is ever persistent.”

“Today’s event was to spread awareness and to send a message to the world that we need to protect this threatened species. Also, these species shouldn’t be poached for the sake of any medicine or any treatment which is a myth,” P. Sivakumar, the director of the Kaziranga Park told Anadolu Agency.

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