A rhino was shot dead and its horn taken away by a gang of poachers, two of whom were killed in an encounter with forest guards in Pobitora Wildlife Sanctuary in central Assam on Wednesday.

A gang of about eight heavily-armed poachers entered Pobitora in Morigaon district and shot dead the adult rhino near Tuplung forest camp and sawed off its horn, forest officials said.

Hearing gunshots at around 1 a.m., forest protection force personnel rushed to the spot. An encounter took place and two poachers were shot dead, while the rest fled under the cover of darkness with the horn.

This is the second poaching incident and the first encounter this year in the 38.8 sq km Pobitora, located about 30 km east of Guwahati.

The sanctuary has a dense population of the Great Indian one-horned rhinoceros and its population of about 93 rhinos inhabit only 16 sq km area of the wildlife reserve.