GUWAHATI: Home to Asiatic one-horned rhinos, the Kaziranga National Park in Assam is set to get bigger.
Three new additions will make it bigger by 28.8 sq km – all of these habitats-cum-corridors. However, in effect, the present 1,000 sq km park will straddle 2,500 sq km through the linkage of habitats. In the first addition in 2016, 195 sq km was added to Burachapori which connects Kaziranga with Orang National Park.
The seventh and eighth additions will connect the park with Karbi Anglong hills while the ninth addition will stretch to the Nameri National Park in Sonitpur district on the north bank of the Brahmaputra.
“We have six additions and we had proposed three more. The proposal has been cleared by the government. We are awaiting the formal notification in this regard,” the park’s Director P Sivakumar told The New Indian Express on Friday.
In the cases of seventh and eighth additions, the District Magistrate (DM) of Nagaon has already handed over land. As regards the ninth addition, the DM of Sonitput had on August 3 requested the park authorities to start patrolling duty at the demarcated area.
Chief Minister Sarbananda Sonowal backed the park’s expansion. It was he who had instructed the two DMs to hand over land to the Kaziranga authorities.
“The CM sir is playing a major role in controlling poaching. He is ensuring coordination among DMs, Superintendents of Police and Divisional Forest Officers,” Sivakumar said.
He said the advantages vis-à-vis increase in the park’s size would be far too many compared to the challenges.
“The additions will ensure better corridor connectivity with Orang National Park, Nameri National Park and Karbi Anglong. There is a bright scope for migrating animals. Also, it will reduce the fragmentation of habitat,” Sivakumar said, adding, “Major issues like the inbreeding of tigers could be controlled”.
He said there were no major challenges, stating that the park would be required to add some more forest camps to fine-tune patrolling.
Wildlife activists heaved a sigh of relief. As part of the ecosystem, animals, particularly elephants and deer, stray out of the park during every flood and move to the Karbi Anglong hills. This is a time when the poachers increase their activities.
“It’s good that more additions to the park are in the pipeline. This will establish the much-needed connectivity which is critical to wildlife management,” well-known wildlife activist Kaushik Barua said.
Environmentalist Apurba Ballav Goswami said the animals would now be more protected, especially during floods.
“The animals become vulnerable when they move to Karbi Anglong hills during the floods. The addition of the areas to the park will go a long way in their protection,” he said.
Richard Tokbi, who is the chairman of Forest Board and Development, Karbi Anglong Autonomous Council, said they do their best to protect the animals of Kaziranga during floods.
“There could be isolated incidents of poaching where sharpshooters from Manipur and Nagaland are hired by elements. But I tell you 99% of the animals return to the park when the water recedes. We also have a forest department led by a principal chief conservator of forest,” Tokbi told this newspaper.
He agreed that the two proposed additions leading up to the hills of Karbi Anglong would lead to better protection of the animals which migrate during floods.