Four people lost their lives and two one-horned rhinos drowned in Kaziranga National Park (KNP) on Tuesday as Assam continued to reel under floods and rain-induced landslides.
- Kaziranga National park’s 430 square kilometer area sprinkled with elephant-grass meadows, swampy lagoons, and dense forests is home to more than 2200 Indian one-horned rhinoceros, approximately 2/3rd of their total world population.
- Formed in 1908 on the recommendation of Mary Curzon, the park is located in the edge of the Eastern Himalayan biodiversity hotspots – Golaghat and Nagaon district in Assam
- In the year 1985, the park was declared as a World Heritage Site by UNESCO.
- Along with the iconic Greater one-horned rhinoceros, the park is the breeding ground of elephants, wild water buffalo, and swamp deer.
- Over the time, the tiger population has also increased in Kaziranga, and that’s the reason why Kaziranga was declared as Tiger Reserve in 2006.
- Also, the park is recognized as an Important Bird Area by BirdLife International for the conservation of avifaunal species. Birds like lesser white-fronted goose, ferruginous duck, Baer’s pochard duck and lesser adjutant, greater adjutant, black-necked stork, and Asian Openbill stork specially migrate from the Central Asia during the winter season.
- The park has successfully managed to grow the population of Greater one-horned rhinoceros, an endangered species.
- The vast expanse of tall elephant grass, marshland, and dense tropical moist broadleaf forests undoubtedly makes the park look beautiful but it’s the presence of Brahmaputra river, which makes it look enigmatic.
- Due to the difference in altitude between the eastern and western areas of the park, here one can see mainly four types of vegetation’ like alluvial inundated grasslands, alluvial savanna woodlands, tropical moist mixed deciduous forests, and tropical semi-evergreen forests.
- Kumbhi, Indian gooseberry, the cotton tree, and elephant Apple are amongst the famous trees that can be seen in the park.
About Asian one-horned Rhinoceros
- The Indian Rhinoceros (Rhinoceros unicornis) is also called Greater One-horned Rhinoceros and Asian One-horned Rhinoceros and belongs to the Rhinocerotidae family.
- Primarily found in parts of north-eastern India and in protected areas in the Terai of Nepal, where populations are confined to the riverine grasslands in the foothills of the Himalayas.
- Weighing between 2260 kg and 3000 kg, it is the fourth largest land animal and has a single horn.
- These Rhinoceros once ranged throughout the entire stretch of the Indo-Gangetic Plain but excessive hunting reduced their natural habitat drastically. Today, about 3,000 Rhinos live in the wild, 2000 of which are found in Assam’s Kaziranga alone.
- These Rhinoceros can run at speeds of up to 55 km/h for short periods of time and is also an excellent swimmer.
- It has excellent senses of hearing and smell but relatively poor eyesight.
Current situation and mitigation efforts in Kaziranga National park
- Incessant rain in the region over the past few days has resulted in most of the water bodies overflowing and the animals moving to higher reaches.
- At present water has entered the park through natural channels which is normal but the situation becomes extremely critical once water flows over the Brahmaputra embankment.
- Apart from the Brahmaputra, water from the Dhansiri, which is a tributary of the Brahmaputra, also entered the park.
- Series of measures to mitigate flood impact such as pressing seven new speedboats into service, several rounds of awareness drives among the fringe villages, seeking their cooperation and support and repairing the highland inside the park so that these can provide shelter to the animals during flood.
- The anti-poaching camps have been repaired for use by the mobile anti-poaching teams that will patrol the park 24X7 during floods
- Besides, staff members, including divisional forest officers, forest guards, home guards, boatmen and commandos of the elite Assam Forest Protection Force (AFPF) are currently deployed at the park.
- Time cards are being provided to vehicles coming from both sides of the Kaziranga National Park to provide utmost security to animals from being hunted.
- Troops of Indian Army along with SDRF and Civil Administration conducted rescue operations and evacuated around 150 villagers who were stranded.