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Kaziranga drive to mitigate casualties

 

The Pioneer, New Delhi, July 12, 2013

With the floodwaters entering the Kaziranga National Park in Assam, the park authorities, in association with biodiversity conservation NGO Aranyak, have started pre-flood awareness campaign for the fringe hamlet residents to mitigate animal casualties.

The programme, which is also supported by the Numaligarh Refinery Limited (NRL), aims at seeking cooperation of residents in villages, where many of the animals enter after escaping high flood in the park, to ensure safety of wildlife.

There are 18 fringe villages in and around the park, which are very sensitive in terms of human-animal encounters during floods. The awareness campaign had already been launched in 12 out of the total 18 villages, said Aaranyak publicity secretary, M Firoz Ahmed while adding that the remaining villages will be covered very soon.

“The series of pre-flood awareness camps is being carried out to minimise the death of wild animals during flood by seeking support of the local communities and to ensure safe return of the flood-displaced animals to the park,” Ahmed said.

The annual flood in Kaziranga, a World Heritage site housing over 2,000 one-horned rhinos and having high tiger density, is considered lifeline for the ecosystem. But last year deluge, the worst in a decade, killed nearly 1,000 animals, majority of the casualties were hog deer. Many of the animals were drowned inside the park while some got killed by speeding vehicles and poached when they attempted to cross a highway to reach high ground in the neighbouring Karbi Anglong district.

Waters from the mighty Brahmaputra, which touches one side of the park, have already entered the park this year, but it is far from being high floods as the waters have flooded less than 20 per cent area of the whole park so far.

“There is a vast difference between water entering the park from Brahmaputra and flood in the park. At the moment, only floodwaters entered and covered only small portion of the park. We still cannot say Kaziranga is flooded right now,” a park official said, adding that they have, however, alerted all their staff and taken all precautionary measures to deal with emergency situation in case of a high floods like last year.

Apart from last year, the park had witnessed severe floods in 1988, 1998, 2004 and in 2008. While the park had lost 1,203 animals in 1988, a total of 652 animals died in the floods of 1998, the officials said.