Kaziranga National Park Happenings
Kaziranga National Park became an international tourist destination when a movie on the one-horned rhinoceros made by naturalist and wildlife photographer Dr Robin Banerjee, was screened on Berlin Television in 1961.
Dr.K.Ullas Karanth, eminent wildlife biologist, had in 1995 through the camera-trap sampling method, estimated that the average tiger density at Kaziranga was 16.8 tigers per 100 sq. km. Subsequent similar studies done in other tiger habitats in India revealed densities less than this. Biologists in Russia, Thailand, Malaysia, Indonesia and Nepal who used the same camera-trap method came up with tiger densities from 1 to 12 tigers per 100 sq. km. This gave Kaziranga National Park the distinction of having the highest tiger-density in the world.
Elephant festival at Kaziranga - A two day elephant festival was organized in January 2003 in Kaziranga National Park. One of the aims of the festival was to highlight the need to protect wildlife in general and in particular, to resolve the growing elephant-human conflict here. . 275 tame elephants of the Forest Department participated in the festival. Two well known personalities, expert mahout and elephant catcher Parbati Barua and documentary film maker, Robin Banerjee were also honored during the festival.
In 2003 a bizarre phenomenon of parakeets dying in mid-air collisions in Kaziranga National Park was witnessed. The birds were apparently getting dis-oriented while approaching a high tension electric pole that existed on their flying route. Park Rangers took to bursting crackers to disturb the nearby colonies of these birds and to get them to change their route. This helped as the parakeets changed their route.
The tigers at Kaziranga seem to have acquired a taste for rhino calves - between 1985 and 2003 they have reportedly devoured almost 203 calves. The reason seems to be the severe flood in 1988 which took their toll on herbivores, making this a necessity. This acquired taste has surprised many. This observation was made by Aaranyak ( an Assam based NGO ) in 2003 in a publication Tiger Paper brought out by United Nations Food and Agricultural Organization.
Early on May 19th, 2004 the forest department had received a message about a tiger, which had killed two cows near Tamuli Pathar village which is close to the boundary of Kaziranga National Park. A joint team of the Assam forest department, police, army, and the Wildlife Trust of India (an NGO) was soon combing the area with five elephants to locate the tiger. The tigress was spotted near the village, and on seeing the team she moved into a nearby paddy field. Range Officer Dharanidhar Bodo, Dr. Chaudhary along with a guard were riding the elephant, Joymala, driven by the mahout Pegu. As they moved towards the tigress, she did a mock charge. Two blanks were then fired in the air, which made her move to another field. The team followed her and when they got a clear view of her, Bodo shot at her with the dart gun. The dart missed the tigress who was so enraged by this action that she charged and took a flying leap on to the elephant's head (an adult elephant's head is at least 12 feet above the ground ). To defend himself the mahout Pegu threw the metal ankush at the tigress. The ankush missed the tigress who managed to take a swipe at Pegu. As the elephant at the same time had stepped back, the tigress could not land on the elephant's head and fell to the ground. At the same time, in the ensuing confusion both Bodo and the guard fell down. Joymala quickly pinned down the tigress with her fore foot and her trunk. For half a minute the tigress was pinned down, all the time roaring. A second attempt was made at this stage to dart her but this attempt also failed. The tigress finally made her escape. It is only because of Joymala's action that Bodo and the guard escaped being mauled. The mahout Pegu was badly lacerated and lost three fingers on his left hand.
A study of satellite images taken during the last thirty years has revealed that 27% of the total area of Kaziranga National Park has become unsuitable for the rhino due to considerable siltation and fragmentation of the water bodies in the park. Also the exotic 'mimosa' plant has made vast stretches unsuitable for rhinos and other animals. The Assam Forest Department and the Wildlife Trust of India, a leading NGO, have been conducting a programme to eradicate this weed. The Brahmaputra too has been eroding land, with the park having lost 37 sq. kms due to the erosion.
Mark Shand, the renowned British author and conservationist has been appointed International Brand Ambassador for Kaziranga.