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SOS Rhino : In the News : Kaziranga centenary: Focus on conservation efforts

Kaziranga centenary: Focus on conservation efforts

  Bano Haralu
Wednesday, February 16, 2005 (Kohora):

In Kaziranga, celebrations to mark the park's 100 years are being dominated by serious issues like ways to prevent the man-elephant conflict and putting an end to rhino poaching here.

Home to the largest population of the endangered one horned rhino, Kaziranga National Park is facing serious environmental challenges.

Facing problems

Assam wildlife officials are alarmed over the rate of erosion reducing the grassland cover, the staple food for the celebrated rhinos and other endangered species.

Also troubling is the spread of the mimosa weed, which is harmful for the animals.

Ironically the increase in the number of rhinos in the sanctuary from twelve rhinos 100 years ago to an estimated 1,800 rhinos presently, is also a problem to be dealt with. Experts say time has come for translocating some of them for success in conservation efforts.

"Looks to me like too many rhinos, and park officials will have to seriously consider thinning them out a bit by shifting some rhinos to other areas at least for some time. There are quite a number of areas in Assam. It's a nice problem to have but still it is one," said Dr John B Sale, Biodiversity Conservation Consultant.

Fatal injuries

A not so nice problem is the NH-37 running across a 40 km stretch of the park on its southern end.

Animals fleeing floodwaters from the Brahmaputra river bordering the park in north receive fatal injuries annually when they cross the national highway to get to safer higher ground of the adjoining Karbi Anglong Hills.

The government says it is considering several options to address this problem especially with the plans to convert the national highway as a six-lane as an extension of the East West Corridor route from Porbandar in Gujarat to Silchar in southern Assam.

"We have given two three options to the Government of India. One option is that we have designated animal corridors. We may have some natural flyovers or we may have underground tunnels, we may also shift the entire highway to the southern side," said Pradyut Bordoloi, Minister.

Man-animal conflicts

Overarching all these issues is the increasing conflict between man and the elephant, a consequence of the rapidly dwindling forest cover and the encroachment of traditional migratory routes of elephants by an ever growing human population.

The state recorded 85 elephant killings by angry villagers and 96 human deaths by elephants between 1996 and 2004.

In the end, the survival in future of this World Heritage Site will depend on just how much we are willing to put at stake for one of the rarest corners of our planet.

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