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Uncertainty looms on Kaziranga

Rhino reality

Rhino deaths in Kaziranga from 1982 to 2014

Suggested measures for saving rhinos in Kaziranga

• Erosion control
• Habitat improvement
• Extension of habitat
• Anti-poaching infrastructure upgrade
• Security and surveillance
• Adopting a landscape-based, green growth approach
• Better management strategies
• Creating several secure habitats outside Kaziranga for the rhinos

Poaching: 1065

Natural deaths: 2023

Guwahati, Aug. 10: Will Kaziranga be able to see its bicentenary in 2105 AD? A difficult one to answer, but the road ahead is certainly a difficult one.

This is what the report — prepared by Kaziranga park director M.K. Yadava on “Issues and possible solutions for long term solutions of the greater one-horned rhinoceros in Kaziranga National Park” — submitted to Gauhati High Court tries to broadly address.

“Long-term preservation of this unique site has become the biggest conservation challenge today. Poaching of rhinos is only one of the issues plaguing the park. The other serious concerns are shrinking of the habitat, erosion by the Brahmaputra, siltation of waterbodies, invasion of weeds, complete lack of protection of the watershed of Kaziranga, lack of corridors around the park and confinement of big mammals within the park. Each of these issues has the potential of wiping out the rhino population in a silent way,” it said.

It goes on to say that almost after 110 years of start of conservation of rhinos in Kaziranga, the growth in wild animal population as well as swelling of human habita-tions has reached levels which call for exercising a very fine balance between conservation and development, making the work of conservation a lot more difficult than it was a century ago.

“The question still remains to be answered if Kaziranga will see its bicentenary in 2105 AD,” the report said.

The report, a comprehensive one, was prepared after getting inputs from stakeholders both from the country and abroad.

“In the opinion of the author the best possible development alternatives possible in the world should be explored as Kaziranga is one of its kind of habitat in the world, and it is the local population that would play the key role in future in answering whether Kaziranga would celebrate its bicentenary in 2105 AD. To my mind, cost cannot be a consideration while securing the future of Kaziranga and deciding the fate of the fringe population of this World Heritage Site,” Yadava said in the report.

The report has estimated that Rs 8,820.75 crore will be required in the next 10 years to implement some of the measures (see chart) to save the rhinos.

Former park director Surajit Dutta agreed. “Invasion of weeds is a big problem indeed,” Dutta said.

If poaching is stopped, around 25 animals must be translocated elsewhere in safe rhino habitats to keep the population of Kaziranga productive.

“If need be, the population may have to be moved outside Assam if the Assam habitats reach saturation,” the report said.