Man-made highlands in Assam’s Kaziranga National Park

(IANS)

While the annual floods in Assam have cost hundreds of lives in addition to destroying crops, infrastructure, and valuables, domestic and wild animals have also been severely affected.

Among these include the critically endangered rhinos found in the Kaziranga National Park and Tiger Reserve (KNPTR), which is home to about 2,600 Indian rhinoceros.

To protect the wild animals from the fury of floods, the Forest and Wildlife Department in Assam has taken a series of measures — including constructing man-made highlands in KNPTR and other national parks and wildlife sanctuaries in the state.

A UNESCO world heritage site, the Kaziranga National Park & Tiger Reserve is home to Indian rhinos, tigers, elephants, wild buffalos and many more animal species. It is also a habitat for over 125 species of birds.

KNPTR Director Jatin Sharma said the park has a total of 144 man-made, scientifically-designed highlands, including 33 big ones, for housing animals during floods.

“Prior to 2016, there were 111 highlands in the park and these were mostly very small. Since 2016, we constructed 33 big highlands. Besides these, three 8.5 km long highland-cum-roads were constructed so that the animals could take shelter in these highlands and roads and move from one place to another,” Sharma, a senior IFS officer, told IANS over the phone.

He said that KNPTR is fully prepared to meet any eventuality during the floods. Country boats and speed boats are kept ready for deployment for the rescue of animals, while the forest staff are also on high alert.

Sharma said that vaccination of cattle and camp elephants has been carried out near the periphery of the park in the last one-and-a-half months to prevent the spreading of infection from domestic to wild animals.

In 2020, at least 128 wild animals, including 19 rhinos, six wild buffaloes and 84 deer of various species, had died due to the floods, while 163 animals were rescued, even as over 95 per cent of the park was inundated.

Last year, 24 wild animals, including 17 hog deer, two rhinos, one wild buffalo, two swamp deer, a python and a cap langur died during the monsoon. The forest personnel also rescued many animals.

Assam’s Environment and Forest Minister Parimal Suklabaidya said on Wednesday that his department is fully prepared to rescue animals from the onslaught of floods in Kaziranga and other national parks and wildlife sanctuaries in the state.

“We have successfully completed the construction of a large number of highlands for tackling the prevailing flood situation in Kaziranga and other national parks and wildlife sanctuaries,” he said.

The newly-constructed highlands have been designed scientifically with provisions for adequate grass and plants yielding fruits such as elephant apple and Indian gooseberry, said Suklabaidya, adding that these highlands have helped reduce animal casualty during the annual floods.

“Kaziranga bears the brunt of floods every year, be it small or big. We are fully equipped to tackle any sort of exigency along with food arrangements for the officials and forest personnel deployed for rescue operations in Kaziranga,” he added.

Suklabaidya said that the forest officials are working round-the-clock in view of the flood situation and are working in close tandem with the officials of Kaziranga for ensuring the safety of the animals.

“More than 25 boats are kept ready for the rescue of animals in Kaziranga,” he said.

While claiming that a slew of initiatives has been taken by his department to deal with the deluge in a better and more efficient manner, Suklabaidya revealed that a baby elephant was saved from drowning on Tuesday morning.

(Sujit Chakraborty can be contacted at sujit.c@ians.in)

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The above article has been published from a wire source with minimal modifications to the headline and text.

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