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SOS Rhino : In the News : Archived News : June 2002 : Floods in India's Assam force endangered animals to migrate

Floods in India's Assam force endangered animals to migrate


Guwahati, June 19, IRNA -- Scores of endangered animals, including wild Asiatic elephants and rhinos, have started migrating to safer areas with floodwaters entering a wildlife sanctuary in India's northeastern Assam state, officials Wednesday said.

"Most of the streams and lowlands inside the Kaziranga National Park are filled with floodwaters of the river Brahmaputra forcing animals to move to the adjoining Karbi Anglong hills for safety," park warden N K Vasu told IRNA.

"On Tuesday night, I saw a herd of elephants and rhinos crossing the national highway that passes along the park and moving towards the Karbi Anglong hills," he said.

The 430 sq km park, 220 kilometers east of Assam's capital
Guwahati, is home to the world's largest concentration of one-horned rhinoceros. There are an estimated 1,600 rhinos at Kaziranga out of a total world population of some 2,300 of this thick-skinned pachyderm.

Heavy monsoon rains over the past week have led to flash floods in Assam submerging up to 40 villages and leaving more than 30,000 people marooned.

Government authorities have promulgated prohibitory orders asking drivers to maintain a minimum speed on the national highway that passes along the park.

Forest rangers say the trend of elephant herds moving to safer areas are "strong indicators" that heavy flooding inside the park was imminent.

"Elephants have very strong senses and could anticipate about impending dangers and we have seen in the past that such responses have come true," D D Boro, a park ranger, said.

Park officials are now worried of armed poacher gangs taking advantage of the flood situation and killing animals that veer away from the sanctuary areas to the hills.

Forest guards have intensified patrol along the highway and
special teams have been positioned along the hills to prevent poachers from hunting the wildlife.

A kilogram of rhino horn sells at about Rs1.5 million in
international markets, while ivory trade is also very lucrative for the poachers.



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