Green Minute News
Photo Credits to Bitupan Kolong
Kaziranga National Park, India’s only habitat for one horned rhinos, is completely under water. According to Assam Forest officials, 90 per cent of the habitat is submerged with rhinos finding shelter on the highlands. Pobitora and Manas – two other habitats for this species too have been inundated.
With NH-37 passing through the national park from Jakhalabandha to Numaligarh, it is not easy for rhinos and small herbivores to cross this busy road and take refuge in highlands. The highway connects Assam-Manipur and authorities have provided time cards to vehicles on both sides so as to secure the safety of wildlife. Although, the road was closed for two days, it opened for essential traffic on Tuesday as water receded.
Rhinos and other wildlife have to cross this NH to go across to highlands in Karbi Anglong district. Although speed limits have been issued and Section 144 is in place, a deer and four hog deer were killed in car hits while fleeing from flood waters. Seven chital were rescued in the swirling waters and released on the highlands.
Julin Boruah, Founder,Nature Care and Tourism Education Foundation who has been campaigning for rhino protection for six years said, “The situation is not at all good. There have been wildlife losses due to floods – hog deer, sambar and one rhino. Communications and power are yet to be restored in Pobitora while only essential vehicles have been allowed on NH-37. Most of the rhinos have moved to the highlands. Out of the 40 artificially built, only 33 highlands remain.”
In the Kaziranga Park, out of the 199 anti-poaching camps, 155 camps are inundated. However, officials stress that forest staff has been carrying out their protection activities using mechanized boats. Further, a special rhino protection force is deployed in vulnerable areas of the national park.
Khonjon Nath, Resource Person, Save Environment and Wildlife of Assam (SEWA) informs, “The highlands which have been made unscientifically are not a permanent solution. Artificially built, they are eroding. In fact, 25 per cent of rhinos live on the highlands. There are 150 highlands. Out of the 40 that were built, some seven have eroded while some are yet to be completed. There is no vegetation on the highlands as also nil maintenance. However, since they are in Karbi Anglong, not much of protection is there. We have requested the government to put extra camps here. As far as global funds for protection are concerned, where has it been spent, there is no accountability.”
Meanwhile, the office of the state forest minister has issued a statement that a special protection force is in place which comprises 82 trained commandoes to deal with the situation. Divided into small groups, each consists of 5 commandoes and has been deployed across the park depending on the risks factors.
This year, officials say one rhino has been killed by poachers but NGOs working in rhino protection put the figures at 6-7. On Saturday even as flood waters were submerging forest lands, police and forest officials arrested two hunters in Biswanth district.
Box : KAZHIRANGA’S STATISTICS
- Kaziranga is spread across 434 sq kms in Golaghat & Nalgaon districts, Assam
- Its home to 2413 one horned rhinos, world’s largest population
- Park is shut from May-October during monsoons
- Kaziranga is bound by Brahmaputra on northern side
- NH-37 touches southern boundary of park
- UNESCO World Heritage Site, a tourist attraction
- Rhinos targeted by global smugglers for its horns
- In 2017 floods, 31 rhinos drowned
- 77 rhinos killed by poachers in last six years
- Horns are used for traditional medicine in SE Asia