Save Kaziranga to Save India’s Biodiversity

Save Kaziranga to Save India’s Biodiversity

Adequate precautions required prior to monsoon to prevent biodiversity loss

A post college road trip through a forest with decades-old trees loomed around, seeing herds of one horned rhinos grazing, vibrant insects and mammals dancing on the branches of trees and bushes. Getting exited with the calming silence that was punctuated only by the surrounding streams and chirping of the birds. Capturing photos by incorporating herds of elephants of different age groups near the brook are a mesmerising memory for me about Kaziranga national park, the world heritage site located in Assam. Unfortunately every monsoon causes a severe damage to this unique biodiversity zone due to the flood. Kaziranga National Park is in a low-lying area. It is a known fact that flood occurs every year in Assam and in Kaziranga which brings devastation to the lives of humans, animals, and others. Thousands of animals has vanished due to frequent flood in Kaziranga.

Floods are an integral part of the Kaziranga ecosystem, most of which comprises of swamps, grasslands and wetlands, known as beels in Assamese, which act as of overflow reservoirs during floods. The animals of Kaziranga are habituated to the annual flooding and are known to migrate to artificial highlands built within the park during the 90s. As of now the Park authorities have created 33 highlands, artificially constructed elevated spots, where small and large animals are expected to take refuge when flood waters submerge most of the park’s area. However, these highlands, known as tilas in Assamese, only serve as a safe refuge for the animals during the flash and low floods. “During the heavy flood, few sustainable measures needs to be taken which the national government can initiate; Instead of opposing the construction of highlands the conservation scientists in India must undertake rigourous scientific study with immediate effect, so that animals and other lives in the flood affected area of Kaziranga can take a shelter for their survival for a short or a long duration of time,” said Prof. Surjith Singha, a resident of Assam.

At present during the large seasonal, annual floods, only the adjoining Karbi Anglong Hills running along the south of Kaziranga serve as safety nets for the tens of thousands of large and small mammals that abound in the 1000 sq. km park. It is during this journey to the hills to escape floods is when most of the casualty happens. Because to reach there, the animals need to cross the busy highway No. 47 which connects the timber, oil, tea and coal-rich parts of Assam to the rest of the country. Large number of heavy cargo transports through the national highway becomes a hurdle for the animals before being able to reach the hills.

Dr Rajkamal Goswami from Asssam opined, “the Assamese people take a lot of pride and ownership over the rhinos, the critical inhabitants of Kaziranga, since it is the national animal of Assam and is an integral part of the Assamese culture, yet, they haven’t been able to generate enough political and conservation mobilisation seeking a solution to this annual deluge of death. It will be impractical to seek an alternative route for the highway with the Karbi Hills on one side and the park and the Brahmaputra on the other. Therefore, the most reasonable solution is to come up with an innovative design based on an understanding of the temporal and spatial patterns of animals crossing the highway. Immediate solutions may include restricting the parts of the road where the animals cross to bring down the speed of the vehicles, intensive monitoring of the speeding regulations by the forest and police department, particularly during the floods and setting up of frequent traffic barriers/ check posts to enable the crossing of large herds of deer, elephants and wild buffaloes.

“The long term solutions may include massive flyovers over the entire stretch of the crossing zones. This will call for large scale public and private investment, which is possible because we are talking of the future of rhinos here,” Added Dr. Rajkamal.

The 118-year-old park provides shelter to over 2,400 rhinos, 104 royal Bengal tigers and to other animals including elephants, wild buffaloes and several species of deer. Kaziranga is also a favourable atmosphere for the multiple species of the wild cats other than Bengal tigers like leopards, jungle cat, fishing cat and others which makes this zone as one of the highest tiger density zones in the world. State government alone cannot achieve this and as a nation we should take adequate precautions prior to monsoon to prevent biodiversity loss in this unique zone. Read More

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