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Kaziranga animals ‘reclaim’ abandoned quarries on corridors

A rhinoceros inside the Kaziranga National Park in Assam.

A rhinoceros inside the Kaziranga National Park in Assam.   | Photo Credit: Ritu Raj Konwar

Stone-crushing machines confined animals fleeing floods to small patch in foothills till SC ban came into effect

Animals of the Kaziranga National Park (KNP) are ‘reclaiming’ their migratory paths that were blocked for years by illegal stone quarries in the hills beyond a highway along the southern periphery of their habitat.

Banned by SC

The Assam Forest Department banned stone mining activities in the hills of the Karbi Anglong district south of KNP on April 30 after the Supreme Court ordered their closure on April 12. The ban followed a petition by environmental activist Rohit Choudhury against the stone quarries that caused noise pollution besides contaminating the streams flowing down the hills into the park.

The hills of Karbi Anglong south of the highway have been the natural refuge of animals whenever much of KNP goes underwater during the monsoon every year. This year’s flood has till Wednesday morning killed 205 animals, including 18 one-horned rhinos.

Most drowned while 16 hog deer and a sambhar were run over by vehicles while trying to cross the highway for the relative safety of the hills.

“We found elephants, deer and other animals in and around the Dhing quarry, less than two kilometres from our range office. Our staff spent three nights for a rhino that went up the hill near the deserted quarry before returning after the animal made its way back to the national park,” said Pankaj Bora who heads the Bagori Range of KNP.

Officials of the park’s Burapahar Range spotted tiger pug marks close to a quarry near the Silimkhowa village. The quarry is along the Maloni animal corridor, but the animals fleeing floods were confined to a small patch at the foothills after the stone-crushing machines came up at the quarry about four years ago.

‘Refuge and fodder’

“The hills are part of the Kaziranga-Karbi Anglong landscape. The noisy quarries had hindered the movement of animals to higher altitudes, offering 750 sq. km. of refuge and fodder. Animals moving toward the areas during this flood after a long gap underlines the efficacy of the ban that the Supreme Court ordered,” KNP Director P. Sivakumar said.

At least five of several stone quarries on the hills are visible from the highway.

Jagannath Rongpi, Divisional Forest Officer of the Karbi Anglong East Division, also attributed the movement of animals to “low disturbance” this time. “We are low on vehicles and staff, and are running with officials and Home Guards on deputation from other divisions, but local people are helping us keep a watch on the animals and ensure they return to Kaziranga safely after the water level subsides,” he told The Hindu.

Data provided by KNP officials said the water level had fallen by 162 cm. during the last 24 hours. But heavy rainfall in eastern Assam and Arunachal Pradesh could result in another wave of flooding for Kaziranga in the next few days.

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Printable version | Apr 10, 2020 3:45:30 PM | https://www.thehindu.com/news/national/other-states/kaziranga-animals-reclaim-abandoned-quarries-on-corridors/article28701873.ece

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