Kaziranga (Assam), Jan 10: Out of the early morning mists and tall grass of northeast India emerges a massive creature with a dinosaur-like face, having survived millions of years despite a curse -- literally on its head. As elephant-borne riders approach, the formidable hulk sniffs the air for danger, then resumes its breakfast.
This is Kaziranga, refuge to more than 2,200 endangered Indian rhinoceros and one of the world's best-protected wildlife reserves.
But even here, where rangers follow shoot-to-kill orders, poachers are laying siege to "Fortress Kaziranga," attempting to sheer off the animals' horns to supply a surge in demand for purported medicine in China that's pricier than gold.
At least 18 rhino fell to poachers in and around the park in 2012, compared to 10 in all of India in 2011.