New Delhi :
Heavy floods in Assam wreak havoc as about 250 animals have died at Kaziranga National Park which has been badly hit by the floods. At least 20 one-horned rhinos have perished in the floods. Although forest officials managed to rescue over 200 animals, including nine rhino calves, officials said on Monday.
Mobile Veternary Units of Centre for Wildlife Rehabilitation and Conservation (CWRC) has so far rescued 62 hog deer, three eastern swamp deer, 10 Asian one-horned rhinoceros and eight rhinos calves separated from their mothers, according to a Wildlife Trust of India (WTI) release.
CWRC is wildlife rescue, care and rehabilitation facility run jointly by WTI, International Fund for Animal Welfare and the Assam Forest Department (AFD).
The death toll in the World Heritage Site, after river Brahmaputra unleashed its flood fury, was said to be 242 on Monday.
“Among the dead rhinos, most were calves. Forest teams managed to rescue at least nine rhinos, 90 Hog Deer, one Jungle Owlet, three Swamp deer, one Fishing Cat and one python,” Subhasis Das, Divisional Forest Officer, Kaziranga told a news agency.
Das added that the animals were rescued using boats, some manually and some with the help of tranquilisers. Besides, an official told a news agency that, “No tiger deaths have been reported so far, nor have we found any tiger carcasses. Some tigers have reportedly moved towards human habitations.”
The dead animals included 20 rhinos, nine Swamp Deer, 185 Hog Deer, four Wild Buffalo, 12 Wild Boar, two Hog Badger, a Pelican, six Sambar deer, two porcupines and a python. However, officials said it was not only the floods that accounted for the death of animals. They said fourteen Hog Deer died after being hit by vehicles on National Highway-37, while eight animals, including four rhinos and a Hog Badger, are said to have died due to natural causes.
Of those rescued, many, including one rhino and 60 Hog Deer, have been released back in the wild, officials added. Over 70 elevated platforms, or man-made highlands, in the park also helped save many animals. However, not all the elevated platforms could withstand this year's floods. “We are planning to get more of these highlands in the park,” Das told the agency.
Besides, officials said the floods had begun to abate now, but their next fear is “fodder scarcity” that would push the animals to southern Kaziranga in search of food. “The floods are followed by fodder scarcity for some time, then animals start moving towards the Karbi-Anglong Hills situated at the southern part of the forest,” Das said.
He added that since the southern boundary of the national highway is at a height, animals often move to take shelter there during floods. This also invites poachers.
“We have our teams there, we have many camps there and our guards will continue monitoring to keep poachers away,” an official said.
“Every year, floods take over Kaziranga, but this year they have been aggressive,” O.P. Pandey, former Wildlife Warden of Assam, told the news agency.
Kaziranga National Park is home to 35 species of mammals and has 2400 one-horned rhinoceros, 20,000 hog deer, 100 tigers, 1000 elephants, 1500 wild buffaloes, 1000 swarm dear.