Kaziranga (Assam): The Centre for Wildlife Rehabilitation and Conservation (CWRC) has been granted complete authority on rescue and rehabilitation of flood affected animals, in preparation for the annual monsoon floods in Kaziranga National Park, the park director SN Buragohain said.
The CWRC, a joint venture of the Assam Forest Department, Wildlife Trust of India (WTI) and its partner International Fund for Animal Welfare (IFAW), has been providing emergency relief to diseased, distressed and displaced animals from in and around Kaziranga NP since its inauguration in 2002.
CWRC veterinarian Prasanta Boro, confirming the responsibility, said, “We will organise awareness campaigns for local villagers and train volunteers from schools and local NGOs. Four well-equipped Mobile Veterinary Service (MVS) units, comprising a vehicle with medical supplies and a wildlife veterinarian, will be put on alert in each of the four ranges of the national park.”
“All rescue teams will be advised to release reasonably healthy animals on the spot. Only severe cases will be brought to CWRC. Expertise will be sought from Guwahati Veterinary College and Guwahati University as and when required,” he added.
Additionally, the Forest Department has set in motion other activities to minimise casualties to animals during the floods. With large areas of the forest submerged animals move towards higher grounds, often outside park boundaries, making them vulnerable to poachers. To reach this higher ground the animals have to cross the national highway and therefore accidents are quite common during these crossings.
“Although the severe floods haven’t started, we have begun our preparations. We have invited officials from the concerned forest divisions to set up anti-poaching plans. As the animals usually move towards Karbi-Anglong during the floods, forest guards have been deployed along the border. Section 144 that restricts the speed limit in national highways to 40 km/hour has already been imposed. We have also put up barricades along the highway passing through Kaziranga,” Buragohain added.
WTI initiates rescue project in Sonitpur, Assam
WTI has also initiated a Rapid Action Project (RAP) to organise rescue operations in Sonitpur district, rendered inaccessible to the MVS units by the flood. The project also includes awareness campaigns and is being implemented locally by the NGO, Nature’s Bonyapran.
Under the sanctioned project, injured animals will be rescued, provided medical treatment and released back into the wild by the members of Nature’s Bonyapran with the help of a veterinarian. “Awareness campaigns are being organised for the local villagers, who have also been asked to report sightings of displaced animals,” said Ajoy Kumar Sarmah of Nature’s Bonyapran. “Once we get the information on displaced animals, we will provide them with medical care and release them suitably. If they are injured severely and require long-term care, we will transfer them to the CWRC,” he added.
Kaziranga National Park stretches along the flood plain of the Brahmaputra River in central Assam and is inundated every year in the monsoon. The floods occur with varying intensity, more or less following a two-year cycle; in high flood years there is wide-spread havoc in the park, with hundreds of animals displaced and several drowned. In 1998, one of the worst floods here in recent history, more than 600 animals including about 40 rhinos were recorded dead.
However the flood responsible for this destruction is also incidentally credited for the productivity of the park. The silt deposited by these floods rejuvenates and supports the unique grassland habitat of Kaziranga NP, home to the world’s largest population of the greater one-horned rhinoceros. The park, a UNESCO World Heritage Site, is also home to several other species including key endangered ones like the Asian elephant and the Royal Bengal tiger.