Location and Administration
A UNESCO World Heritage Site spread across large sections of the Nagaon and Golaghat districts in the Indian State of Assam, the Kaziranga National Park is world famous for its Indian rhino population which makes up around two-thirds of the world’s one-horned rhino population. The park is also replete with other wonders of nature and hosts large tiger populations and an incredible display of bird life. The park is well-known for its efficient management and excellent protective measures adopted to conserve wildlife. The Kaziranga National Park is managed by the Wildlife Wing of the forest department of the state Government of Assam. The national park is well managed by a hierarchical system of government officers headed by the Director of the park. The divisional Forest Officer, assisted by two officers of the rank of Assistant Conservator of Forests, execute the administrative responsibilities of the park. The Range Forest Officers are assigned the task of monitoring the 5 ranges of the forest while each range is further subdivided into beats, headed by beat officers. These beats are divided into sub-beats, and a forest guard is then assigned with the task of monitoring each sub-beat.
Prior to 1904, the rhinos and other wildlife at the Kaziranga were indiscriminately hunted by royals, British officers, and locals of the area. It was only when Mary Curzon, the wife of Lord Curzon, the Viceroy of India, visited the park and found no trace of rhinos for which the park was famous, that she persuaded her husband to take measures to protect the area. On June 1st, 1905, the Kaziranga Proposed Reserve Forest was created and in 1908, it was promoted to the position of a Reserve Forest. Hunting restarted at the forest, between 1916 and 1938 when it was declared as the Kaziranga Game Sanctuary. In 1938, however, hunting was banned here and in 1950, the park was named as the "Kaziranga Wildlife Sanctuary”. Soon, the newly independent Government of India understood the harm done to rhino population at the park and passed the Assam (Rhinoceros) Bill in 1954 which had provisions to heavily punish those associated with rhino poaching. The Kaziranga Wildlife Sanctuary was promoted to the Kaziranga National Park status in 1968.
Education and Tourism
The Kaziranga National Park is a gateway into the fascinating world of Indian wildlife for many tourists, wildlife biologists, naturalists, conservationists and wildlife biology students from all corners of the world. The tourist facilities here are well-developed with a large choice of accommodations from simple home-stays to luxurious resorts. Gypsy and elephant safaris are allowed at the park but walking or hiking is strictly not permitted due to the presence of predators here. The Kaziranga National Park is easily accessible via car or bus rides from the nearest airport of Jorhat (96 kilometers away) and Guwahati (225 kilometers away), or the railway station of Furkating (80 kilometers away).
Habitat and Biodiversity
Summers at the Kaziranga National Park are quite hot while in winters temperatures are quite pleasant, averaging between 25° Celsius (mean high) to 5° Celsius (mean low). The monsoon season is associated with heavy rains and often floods that inundate the western sections of the park, forcing the animals to flee. Often floods have been known to claim the lives of large numbers of wildlife in the park. The Kaziranga National Park encompasses four types of vegetation patterns, the most common being grassland vegetation. Other types of vegetation found here include savanna woodlands, tropical semi-evergreen forests and tropical moist deciduous forests. The Kaziranga National Park hosts 35 mammalian species of which 15 are threatened. In addition to Indian rhinoceroses, the national park is also famous for tigers (highest tiger density in the world), leopards, jungle cats, fishing cats, wild water buffaloes (accounting for 57% of the total world population), hog deer, and swamp deer. Apes and primates like the Hoolock gibbon, capped langur, Assamese macaque, and others are also notable species of this forest. The avian species of fauna of this place also draw global attention to the national park. A wide variety of migratory and native birds find their seasonal or permanent homes in the park. Recognizing the significance of the Kaziranga National Park from the perspective of ecological significance to birds, the park has been designated as an Important Bird Area by Birdlife International. Reptiles including large snakes like rock python and reticulated python as well as the highly venomous king cobras, spectacled cobras, and common kraits are all found at the park. Various species of tortoises, fishes, amphibians, and invertebrates also occupy the habitats within this park.
Environmental Threats and Conservation Efforts
Poaching continues to threaten wildlife at the Kaziranga National Park. Rhino poaching for their horns is one of the biggest threats to the survival of this endangered species of animal. Rhino horns obtained by mercilessly killing the rhinos is traded with countries like China that uses the horns in their traditional medical practices. In 2013, 60 rhinos are claimed to have been hunted down by illegal poachers at the park. Six rhinos were killed in the first few months of 2015. Every year, many poachers are prosecuted for their activities or even killed in crossfire with the security forces at the park. Many brave forest guards and officers have also lost their lives in such attempts to curb poaching. Besides poaching, floods pose another threat to the Kaziranga National Park. With climate change and global warming threatening to melt the Himalayan glaciers, flooding incidents are predicted to rise in the future years at the park. Every year, the floods result in high damage to the park habitat and also wild animals that get trapped in the floodwaters die by drowning.