Fleeing their flooded habitat, animals of Kaziranga National Park are being run over by vehicles. While nine animals including a deer and wild boar died since Tuesday night, one adult rhino drowned on Thursday.
The 860 sq km park, a World Heritage Site, is bounded by river Brahmaputra on the north and National Highway 37 on the south. The water of the swollen Brahmaputra began creeping into the park a week ago to submerge 70% of the park.
"Kaziranga needs annual flooding for natural drainage of water hyacinths and other aquatic weeds. But the flood this time has been more threatening than usual, forcing even the swamp deer that love water to flee to higher grounds across the highway and the hills beyond," park director Sanjib K Bora told HT.
The problem, though, have been with the hog deer – the main prey base of tigers – that have been crossing over in herds and often dribbling through vehicles in motion. "The civil administration has on our request imposed section 144 to regulate the speed, but sometimes things tend to get a little out of hand," Bora said.
Apart from setting up checkpoints, the Kaziranga authorities have been issuing time cards for vehicles since June 26. The time card entails crossing a 45km stretch of the highway in not less than 40 minutes at a high of 40kmph. Violators of the time card schedule are being fined.
Within the park, guards and rangers rescued 49 deer, seven of which are under treatment at an animal rehabilitation centre. An adult rhino, however, could not be saved. "We have recovered its horn today (Thursday) morning," an officer said.
Patrolling the underwater park has also been an uphill task for the staff. Three guards somehow managed to swim to safety after their mechanised patrol boat, Ganga Siloni, sank during the day.
On the brighter side, the hillocks artificially placed to serve as dry islands for animals during floods, have become refuge for animals of different species. "Floods invariably unite the animals during floods, with carnivores sharing island space with herbivores," a forest guard said.
But park officials fear the worst – food crisis for the animals – if the clouds do not stop melting.