Kaziranga submerged, wild animals flee park in Assam

September 1st, 2008 - 4:38 pm ICT by IANS  

Kaziranga (Assam), Sep 1 (IANS) Floodwaters of the mighty Brahmaputra Monday entered the Kaziranga wildlife sanctuary in Assam forcing scores of endangered animals to flee the park to safer areas, officials said.”More than half of the Kaziranga National Park is under water. Animals are migrating from the sanctuary to an adjoining hill for safety,” park warden S.N. Buragohain told IANS.

The 430 sq km park, 220 km east of Assam’s principal city Guwahati, is home to the world’s largest concentration of one-horned rhinoceros. There are an estimated 1,855 rhinos at Kaziranga, out of a world population of some 2,700.

Heavy monsoon rains have sparked flash floods and submerged up to 1,200 villages, displacing more than 520,000 people in eight districts in Assam. Fourteen people were drowned in separate incidents the past fortnight.

Meanwhile, park authorities have enforced prohibitory orders restricting truckers to drive slowly as they pass a national highway that winds through the park.

“Special barricades have been put along the highway. Forest guards are asking drivers to drive under 40 km an hour as the animals use the highway to cross over to the hill to escape the floods,” the park warden said.

A large number of animals, including deer, get mowed down by speeding trucks while crossing the highway to escape the annual floods. At least 70 animals, including rhinos and wild buffaloes, were drowned in 2004.

Park officials are now worried about poachers killing animals, especially rhinos and elephants, as they move from the sanctuary towards the hills.

“Poachers have a tendency to target animals taking advantage of the floods. We have put forest guards on the alert in the hills where animals take refuge,” Buragohain said.

A Central Water Commission bulletin Monday said the Brahmaputra was flowing above the danger level all along its course.

“The river is expected to rise until Wednesday and is likely to stabilize only if there are no further rains,” the bulletin said.

The Regional Meteorological Centre in Guwahati has forecast more rains in Assam.

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