Kaziranga revisited | Sunday Observer

Kaziranga revisited

1 January, 2017

The Kaziranga National Park is 430 square kilometers. It is 216 kilometers from Guwahati. Kaziranga is one of India’s’ most popular national parks. It is well known for its Rhinoceros (Rhinoceros unicornis), Elephants (Elephasmaximus), Tigers (Pantheratigris) and a variety of birds including many migrants. Kaziranga is also a World Heritage site.

While at Kaziranga I had the rare pleasure of meeting the great Indian Naturalist Valmik Thapa. He was staying at the same lodge, called Wild Grass, that we were staying in. Thapa is well known for his efforts to conserve endangered Indian wildlife, especially tigers. His films, videos etc on tigers are world renowned. Talking to him was a wide ranging education in wildlife conservation. This park is basically in two parts, separated by the Guwahati - Kaziranga main highway. The eastern part is low lying land through which the Brahmaputra, which is India’s biggest river, makes its way down towards the sea, dividing the low land part of Kaziranga into two parts.

Jayantha Jayewardene and Sudath Abeysinghe with Valmik Thapa

This river which starts in Tibet, where it is known there as Tsangbo, is the longest river of Tibet. From Tibet it flows into the state of Arunachal Pradesh, in India. Downstream from Arunachal Pradesh the river becomes phenomenally wider and is called the Siang. After reaching Assam, the river is known as Brahmaputra.

On the other side of the highway is a large area of jungle which is on a steep hill.

Every year with the rains the Brahmaputra overflows its banks and completely floods the low-lying side of Kaziranga at high levels of flood. When the waters rise, different species of animals, led by the elephants, go away quickly from the flooded area onto the hills which are covered in jungle. Most of these animals use the five broad highway crossings that the park authorities have created. Motorists are warned of the animals crossing and are cautioned to drive slowly.

The last census, carried out in 2015, has shown that the park hosts 2,401 Rhinos. The flood in 2016 has been the highest in the decade. During this period the park lost 22 Rhinos through drowning. 9 babies succumbed because they could not swim. The other 13 were adult Rhinos. Since Rhinos can swim strongly these adults would have been those which were old and sick.

Rhinos defecate on the same spot for 15 - 20 days or so and move onto another spot. Since they only use open areas to defecate, piles of dung, in various stages of decomposition, can be seen along the roads that run through the park. Kaziranga also has the world’s highest ecological density of the tiger in any national park in the world. The number of tigers in India reduced drastically in the past two decades. However, the tiger population has now increased somewhat. This park also has the world’s largest population of the Asiatic Wild Buffalo (Bubalusbubalis). Some of the birds seen were: Bar-headed Geese, Gray-lag Geese. These geese breed in Ladak up in the north and come down in winter to feed. Ruddy Sheldrake, Mallard, Common Teal, Eastern Spoonbill, Widgeon, Gadwal, Black-necked Stork Dusky Spotted Owl on a Fishing Eagles nest, Phallus Eagle, Fishing Eagle, Serpent Eagle, Tawny Eagle, Changeable Hawk Eagle.

Kaleej Pheasent, Indian Jungle Fowl. Both the Indian female and male are different from the Sri Lankan Jungle Fowl. Large, Intermediate (or Median), Small and Cattle Egrets. Drongo is known locally as Policeman since it drives off the birds of prey allowing the smaller birds to forage in peace. There were plenty of Barking Deer, Swamp Deer and Hog Deer to be seen.