Kaziranga National Park

Kaziranga National Park located at North East India is one of the most popular ecological sites in the Indian subcontinent. The national park is popular for hosting the two-third population of the One-horned Rhinos in the world. Established during the British Raj in 1908, it boasts the most varied flora and fauna in the entire nation.


Overview

Kaziranga National Park 430 km2 is located in the Golaghat and Nagaon districts of Assam, India. The park is located on the edge of Eastern Himalaya biodiversity hotspot. Even though it was established in 1908, the park was added to the World Heritage Sites by UNESCO only on 1985.

Kaziranga
Kaziranga

The park is popular for hosting the largest amount of One-horned Rhinos along with Royal Bengal Tigers. Kaziranga is home to the highest density of tigers among protected areas in the world, and was declared a Tiger Reserve in 2006.

The park experiences 3 different weathers; Summer, Monsoon and Winter. During Monsoon (Jul-August), most part of the park is submerged into water, due to rising level of water from rainfall and flooding.

History

The history of the national park dates back to 1904 when Mary Curzon, Baroness Curzon of Kedleston and the wife of the then Viceroy of India, Lord Curzon of Kedleston, visited the area. After failing to see a single rhinoceros, for which the area was renowned, she persuaded Lord Curzon to take immediate measure to protect the lessening Rhino species in the region.

On 1 June 1905, the Kaziranga Proposed Reserve Forest was created with an area of 232 km2.

One Horned Rhinos

[Full Article One-horned Rhino]

There are over 2,200 One-horned Rhinos in the Kaziranga area, approximately 2/3 of their entire population. One Horned Rhino is endemic to Indian subcontinent. Found mostly in India, Nepal and Bangladesh, they have been listed in the IUCN Red list for the most vulnerable animals, and only about 3,000 are left in the wild.

One-horned Rhino at Kaziranga
One-horned Rhino at Kaziranga

Rhinos are one of the most hunted and poached animals in the history. The passionate hunters from 20th Century reduced their numbers from thousands to mere few hundreds.

The activity of rampant poaching which started in the 1990s made them even more scarce. They were being mostly poached for their horns, which are believed to carry medicinal qualities. The local authorities and UNESCO helped prevent poaching in the Kaziranga park. Today, it boasts the most amount of Rhinos in the world.

These rhinos live in tall grasslands and riverine forests but due to habitat loss they have been forced into more cultivated land. They are mostly solitary creatures, with the exception of mothers and calves and breeding pairs, although they sometimes congregate at bathing areas.

Preservation

Kaziranga contains significant breeding populations of 35 mammalian species, of which 15 are threatened as per the IUCN Red List. It is also home to a variety of migratory birds, water birds, predators, scavengers, and game birds.

Four main types of vegetation exist in this park. These are alluvial inundated grasslands, alluvial savanna woodlands, tropical moist mixed deciduous forests, and tropical semi-evergreen forests. The park is mostly an expanse of tall elephant grass, marshland, and dense tropical moist broadleaf forests.

The area is controlled by the Government of Assam. They receive financial aid from the state government and the Ministry of Environment, Forests & Climate Change of India.

Royal Bengal Tiger

Bengal Tiger is endemic to the Indian subcontinent. Found mostly in India, Nepal, Bangladesh and Bhutan, they have been listed in the IUCN Red list for the endangered animals; and only about 2,500 are left in the wild.

Popularly known as the Royal Bengal Tiger, it is known as the most fierce and stealth hunter in the wild. A Bengal tiger is known to track its prey for days and go to extreme physical length for a hunt.

Factfile
Family Felidae
Species Panthera Tigris
Height 85 – 110 cm
Weight 320 – 350 kg
Length 270 – 310 cm
Habitat Tropical evergreen forests, decidious forests and mangroves
Location India, Nepal, Pakistan, Bangladesh and Bhutan

Overview

Bengal tiger is the largest among the Felidae, and falls under Panthera Tigris sub-category. The distant cousins of our favorite felines, cats, Bengal tigers mostly inhabit  the thick forests of the Indian sub-continent.

Tigers are apex predators, primarily preying on ungulates such as deer and bovids. They are territorial and generally solitary but social animals, often requiring large contiguous areas of habitat that support their prey requirements. They hunt all by themselves and are known for their fierce and nocturnal methods of hunting.

They sit at the top of the food chain, hence, preserving them becomes essential to maintain the overall biodiversity.

Most Bengal Tigers are found in India. The 2010 survey resulted in an estimated population of 1,706 in India, Bangladesh (440), Nepal (155) and Bhutan (75).

A white Bengal Tiger with black stripes is because of gene mutation and not because they are albino. There’s been only one case recorded when a complete black tiger was found in Chittagong in 1846.

Hunting & Poaching

Tigers were once the most prized animal for hunting. The expedition led by Maharajas and British officials, along with professional hungers reduced the number of tigers from 100,000 to just few hundred in a century.

Tiger hunt
Tiger hunt during the British expedition

The activity of rampant poaching which was banned and marked illegal in 1993 made them even more scarce. The skin and bones of tiger is supposedly known to carry medicinal properties. Most of the poached animal parts are traded into East Asia to be turned into medicines for various ailments.

The two other major reasons for their dwindling number is the prey loss and the conflict with humans. The deforestation and human settlements around their habitat has caused many tigers to get killed during the conflict.

Conservation

WWF along with the respective stakeholders of each country have been working since the last four decades to control poaching, human animal conflict and increase their number in the wild. Today, they are mainly kept under the surveillance in the Buffer zones, national parks and conservation areas.

Chitwan National Park (UNESCO World Heritage Site), covering 932 km2, was established in 1973 in the subtropical inner Terai belts of South-central Nepal. It is known as the first national park of Nepal. A buffer zone, it protects endangered species of Royal Bengal Tiger and One-horned Rhinos. Banke National Park, Shukla Phanta Wildlife Reserve and Bardia National Park are other buffer zones dedicated for the tigers in Nepal.

With just one tiger, we protect around 25,000 acres of forest. These ecosystems supply both nature and people with fresh water, food, and health. ~WWF


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