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Kaziranga ill-prepared
- Boat safari but no birding

Guwahati, Oct. 31: A new to-urism season is due to begin at Kaziranga National Park tomorrow with a double bill for its guests, but minus its best winter spectacle.

The allure of a boat safari to go with the traditional ride on elephant back through grasslands to spot the majestic one-horned rhino might not compensate for even half of what visitors will miss out on. Three wooden bridges on a 20-km stretch of the Agoratoli range were damaged during the extended bout of monsoon flooding and have not been repaired yet, which means tourists will be unable to visit the pelican colony at Kolaghora Beel this season.

Thousands of pelicans and other migratory birds flock to the waterbody at the onset of winter, making for a spectacle that generates no less excitement than the sighting of a rhino or some other beast during a safari.

“The distance to Kolaghora Beel is about 15km from the Agoratoli range office. It won’t be possible for tourists to reach the pelican colony unless the broken bridges are repaired in a hurry,” divisional forest officer Bonkim Sharma said.

Ironically, the floods that ravaged the park became a boon for migratory avian species. The swirling waters of the Brahmaputra swept away shrubs from most waterbodies in the park, making them more attractive for birds looking for places to roost.

For the park management, the challenge this season is not only to keep tourists happy but also increase the level of vigilance. Poachers have killed as many as 18 rhinos in the past 10 months. “We will remain spectators if poachers go in for the kill in the interior areas of the range,” the Ka-ziranga management wrote to the government recently.

Sharma warned of more difficult days ahead since winter usually leads to a spurt in poaching. “Sending rations to the camps at Rongamotia and Debeswari has become a difficult task, not to speak of vigilance,” he said.

Bokakhat Nirman Joot, an NGO, is behind the only positive development in Kaziranga this season — the boat safari on the Brahmaputra along the eastern flank of the park.

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