| A rhino at Kaziranga National Park. File picture |
Jorhat, Oct. 22: Home to the world’s highest population of one-horned rhinoceros, the Kaziranga National Park will open for tourists from November 1 for the season, while repairs on a few roads inside the world heritage site, which were damaged during the floods, are on.
The park remains closed during the summer owing to rain and floods. It will now remain open for tourists till March.
Kaziranga director N.K. Vasu said road repair would be completed within the first week of November and the entire tourist circuit inside the park made ready. “The floods came late this year. Hence, the repairs are still on,” he added.
Though the park has witnessed a spate in rhino killing in the past few years — already more than 20 rhinos have been killed by poachers this year — it has not deterred the flow of tourists to Kaziranga.
The park has being witnessing a flow of regular tourists since Durga Puja, with most of them coming from Bengal this year.
“Kaziranga is a place for those with a penchant for exploring the wild and the arrival of tourists during the festive season is a regular feature. We allow these tourists to travel about a kilometre inside the park in jeeps so they can at least see the rhinos,” the director said.
He said apart from the rhinos — Kaziranga has over 2,000 — the park has a lot more in the offing for tourists and that is exactly the reason why flow of tourists has been increasing. “Be it the elephant grass camouflaging most of its varied fauna or the birds dotting the skies, the national park, which has a high density of animals, is today reaping the dividends of an era of successful conservation, attracting more and more tourists annually,” Vasu said.
Tulis Bordoloi, president of the Kaziranga Jeep Safari Association, said the tourists visiting the park in the off-season have also been charged less for travelling in the park. “We are charging Rs 700 per jeep now but in the peak season, when the park opens for tourists from November, the charges generally go up to Rs 1,300 to Rs 1,500,” he said.
Bordoloi said the jeeps have been ferrying 150 to 200 tourists regularly inside the park since Durga Puja and most of these tourists were from Calcutta.
He said the jeeps were ferrying tourists in both Kohora and Bagori ranges but the vehicles were travelling not more than one to one-and-half km inside the park. “Normally we ferry tourists to about 15-20km inside the park, but now we are ferrying them to only about one and one-and-half km inside. This arrangement has been made with permission from the park authorities, as we would not want any tourists to be deprived of a visit even in the off-season,” he said.
Apart from the jeeps, about 15 elephants belonging to the park authorities have been kept ready to ferry tourists. Elephants belonging to private owners would also be roped in to meet the demand. But they, too, would remain under the supervision of the park personnel.