GUWAHATI: As the second wave of the floods in Assam wreaks havoc, deaths were being reported not just from the human settlements, but from the wild too.
Fifteen rhinos and a Royal Bengal Tiger were among 227 animals which have perished so far in the Kaziranga National Park. With nearly 35 per cent of the park — perched on the banks of the Brahmaputra — still submerged, speculations arose that more animal carcasses were under water in the UNESCO world heritage site.
Park director, Satyendra Singh, told the New Indian Express that the animals died four to five days ago and the carcasses were in various stages of decomposition.
According to official sources, the deaths were caused by drowning. The drowned animals included 187 hog deer, two swamp deer, four elephants, four wild boars, one porcupine, two water buffalos, 11 sambars besides the Royal Bengal Tiger and the 15 rhinos.
Singh said, “These animals possibly died on August 14 and 15 when the water level had risen alarmingly. Searches were being conducted by the forest guards of all 78 camps. There are some forests inside the park which are virtually inaccessible and very risky for human movement but the forest guards are still trying to get inside them to assess the situation.”
Ruling out the possibility of more carcasses being under water, the park director said that they float. Stating that the deluge in 2012 had killed 793 animals, he said usually more animals die when a flood persists for a few days. The animals also die because of lack of food in the park, he said.
On rescue operations, Singh said only the animals which stray out of the park could be rescued and treated.
He said, “Animals inside the park can’t be rescued as it is a violation of the Wildlife Protection Act. We can rescue an animal if it falls sick, but we have to make sure it is freed in the wild. Calves cannot be rescued by separating them from their mother as that may cause their death.”
So far, 50 animals have been rescued by forest guards, who were assisted by a wildlife NGO and locals. While two rescued animals died under the care of Centre for Wildlife Rehabilitation Centre, 41 others were released after treatment.
Meanwhile, three more people died since Friday evening, taking the death toll to 63 – overall 145 this year. Over 2.21 lakh others are still affected in 16 of the state’s 33 districts.