Altogether 538 animals, including 13 rhinos, of the Kaziranga National Park, have been killed in the devastating Assam floods and the death toll is mounting with the KNP authorities of this World Heritage Site recovering more floating carcasses everyday.
The floods have also damaged roads and other infrastructure in the park, which is famous for the one-horned rhino. Even amidst the floods, two rhinos were killed by poachers. The floods have claimed 100 human lives, while 16 others died due to landslip in the State. Of these, 56 are children. Of the 31 lives lost in Barpeta district, 21 were children.
KNP Director Sanjib Kumar Bora told The Hindu that till Thursday afternoon carcasses of 463 hog deer, 13 rhinos, 16 Sambar, 10 swamp deer, 28 wild boars, 5 porcupines, one wild buffalo and two hog badgers had been recovered.
He said the death toll was likely to increase as more carcasses were recovered with the water level receding. About 20 of these hog deer were fatally hit by vehicles as the animals crossed National Highway 37, which passes through the park, to reach higher ground on the southern part.
So far, 126 hog deer have been rescued and 94 of these released in the wild after treatment at the Centre for Wildlife Rehabilitation and Conservation (CWRC), located in the park. Two rhino calves and two elephant caves rescued from floodwaters are being treated at the centre. CWRC volunteers rescued four barking deer, three of which have been released in the wild after treatment.
The park director said locals and NGOs also helped in the rescuing the marooned animals and taking them to the CWRC.
Tourism season may be delayed
Mr. Bora said floodwaters disrupted motorable communication, what with damage to roads, bridges and approaches to bridges.
“The tourism season this time might be delayed as huge funds and time would be required to reconstruct and repair the infrastructure.” Frontline staff manning 16 of the total 152 anti-poaching camps had to be shifted due to flooding, while four old camps had been fully damaged.
“The actual damage is still being assessed,” he said.
The flood waters entered the park area on June 26 and by midnight on June 28, the flow peaked submerging 80 per cent of its area, and only the natural and artificial highlands inside were spared. The migration of herds of hog deer and elephants and some rhinos had been noticed by the park authorities since June 22.
Consequently, prohibitory orders under Section 144 of the Cr.PC were promulgated along NH 37 and time cards introduced restricting speed limit to 40 km/hour to protect the migrating animals. Now “the water level has receded in most parts but some areas are still submerged,” said Mr. Bora.