Kaziranga, according the latest official census, has a significant elephant population of 1200, which are forced to migrate to higher grounds in the Karbi Anglong hills on the south during the monsoon months when the national park gets inundated by floods.
Asian Nature Conservation Foundation (ANCF), a Bangalore-based organization in collaboration with Balipara Foundation has initiated a programme to carry out a study on the migration behaviour in wild elephants in the Kaziranga National Park through the use of radio collars.
Informing this, Robin Eastman of Balipara Foundation said the two organizations have entered into a MoU to jointly carry out this study which will also look into the hazards faced by the Kaziranga elephants especially in the backdrop of a large-scale encroachment of their natural corridors.
“Kaziranga, according the latest official census, has a significant elephant population of 1200, which are forced to migrate to higher grounds in the Karbi Anglong hills on the south during the monsoon months when the national park gets inundated by floods. With most of the land to the south being settled and is either under tea cultivation or paddy, free movement of the elephants becomes highly restricted. Moreover, heavy traffic on the national highway that runs parallel to Kaziranga’s southern boundary increases their risk manifold,” Eastman said.
Elephants moving out of Kaziranga during the floods also run the risk of being poached, especially once they are inside Karbi Anglong, which is one of the two autonomous districts of Assam. “Since there is no meaningful protection measure for wild elephants in the district that is governed by an autonomous council, the chances elephants falling prey to poachers only increases further,” he said.
The joint project of ANFC and Balipara Foundation would determine the minimum area of habitat that is necessary to secure a long-term future of this major stock of Asian elephants in the Kaziranga-Karbi Anglong landscape, Eastman said. “Such conservation planning and implementation is necessarily a long-drawn process that involves a number of steps involving several projects and stakeholders,” he added.
Interestingly, while the authorities have only recently launched a campaign for creating an eco-sensitive zone encircling Kaziranga National Park, the National Green Tribunal (NGT) last month issued bailable warrants against 28 dhabas, resorts, petrol pumps and other establishments for allegedly blocking several natural animal corridors on the park fringes.
Earlier, in April, a CAG report had said setting up of resorts, hotels, dhabas and garages, many of them encroaching upon government land along NH-715, had not only led to serious obstruction in management of the park, but also blocked natural animal corridors. The CAG report had found that 29 resorts and dhabas in Bokakhat Revenue Circle had been running for up to 40 years on land falling within 2-3 km of the Kaziranga National Park boundary, among which two resorts had already changed land pattern from agricultural to commercial.