Heightened risk of poaching as animals tend to leave the park area to take shelter on higher land
The Kaziranga national park, famous for its one horned rhinos, is on the verge of getting inundated by flood waters that have already submerged several areas in Assam. According to media reports, there has already been flooding in the northern and eastern part of the park in the past few days. Besides, incessant rain in the region over the the past few days has resulted in most of the water bodies overflowing and the animals moving to higher reaches.
According to officials posted at the national park, at present water has entered the park through natural channels which is normal; the situation becomes extremely critical once water flows over the Brahmaputra embankment.
“The overflowing water enters the park and it is almost like an annual event here. However, taking note of the present situation here in the park, water is least likely to enter in next few days. Once the overflowing river water enters the park, the situation becomes extremely critical,” said Rabin Sarma, research officer at Kaziranga National park.
Sarma added that apart from the Brahmaputra, water from the Dhansiri, which is a tributary of the Brahmaputra, also enters the park, but added that this doesn’t cause devastation as its effect is minimal compared to the effect of the Brahmaputra flood water.
Kaziranga park director N K Vasu said the park authorities are taking every care to ensure damage is minimal during the flood and that a review meeting was held when water first entered the national park a few days back.
The park authorities have also taken up a series of measures to mitigate flood impact. These include 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 park director said he has also sought cooperation from the district administration, and has requested both the Golaghat and the Nagaon district administration to enforce ban on assembly of more than five persons (Section 144 CrPC) in the park areas and also to check the speed limit of vehicles on national highway (NH) 37. “When flood occurs, animals often cross NH 37 to take shelter on the highlands which is on the other side,” said Vasu.
Asked how a worsened flood situation could affect the national park, the research officer said the biggest threat is that the animals in their search for safer and higher place often leave the park’s jurisdiction, and that as a result of this their chances of falling prey to poachers increases.
“Another threat is that the wild animals get to the highway and are sometimes hit by speeding vehicles,” said Sarma.
Sarma also pointed out that flood is a necessary evil and said that the annual flood is necessary as it has several positive affects as well—the most important benefit being that unwanted weeds are washed away from the park.
"The park gets flooded every year and this is very important from the ecological point of view,” said the research officer.
Elaborating the security measures during the flood, the park director said that at present here are over 150 anti-poaching camps inside the park, including four floating camps. Besides, a total of 1,200 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.
“The anti-poaching camps have been repaired for use by the mobile anti-poaching teams that will patrol the park 24X7 during floods,” said the park director.
Speaking to Down to Earth over telephone, Assam environment and forest minister Rakibul Hussain said that the department is already in touch with the Kaziranga park authorities and that they have been asked to take up every possible step necessary to minimise damage to the park.
Last year, as many as 573 wild animals of the national park died during floods, according to official figures.
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